When a Snuffly Nose is Damaging Your Child’s Prospects
Children are screened for hearing loss at a young age. The UK was a pioneer in this area and rightly gets plaudits from around the world for the work it has done in addressing inclusion from an early age, in part driven by the Newborn Hearing Screening Program. However, hearing and learning are not just about early age diagnosis:
1. A hearing problem that is educationally significant for your child may not be considered a “hearing loss” from a medical standpoint.
2. Difficulty hearing can come on with age or be temporary in nature and therefore may not be picked up at early age screening.
It is therefore important for parents and educators to be aware of any signs that learners may be having trouble hearing – particularly in the case of SEN students, who frequently exhibit other hearing loss as well as other learning difficulties.
So if your child shows signs of hearing loss how do you know whether it is a temporary or permanent problem? Poor hearing is often the cause of underperformance in the classroom and may be disguised by behavioural issues – in any case poor hearing can become a problem for your child. In our latest blog post we guide parents through the process of evaluating their children’s hearing.
There are number of signals that parents should be aware of when evaluating their children for hearing loss. Below are the most prominent factors to look out for.
Responding to Speech
Not responding to things being said to him/ her is the most common sign of hearing loss. Children with hearing loss will exhibit less reaction to being being spoken to, or lower levels of awareness compared other children – particularly if they cannot see the person speaking. Clearly, an important indicator is also when children respond to speech by replying with “what?”, “sorry?” or “huh?” more than their peers.
However, it is important to avoid jumping to conclusions, since a child’s lack of response to speech may come and go and may only be a result of a temporary ear infection, allergy or cold. Hearing loss in just one ear should be professionally investigated by a professional, but may give a particularly confusing impression to parents, whilst a child who is not yet old enough to understand what is said to her may also say “what?” and may only be distracted from the conversation and does not necessarily have hearing loss.
In particular, be aware that mild or moderate hearing loss is harder to notice in young children. However, a parent may notice that the child needs to search to the right or left to find the voice or sound signal, if they cannot hear it clearly.
When a parent has a challenging relationship with his/her child at a young age, hearing and communication may be contributing to the situation. It is worth considering the impact if the child doesn’t understand what a parent is saying – they can only tune in when the parent speaks in a loud or angry voice. The child may be unhappy because he/she does not understand why people sound “angry” the whole time or raise their voice lot. This may in turn lead to the child becoming shy and withdrawn, particularly around new people.
A child struggling to follow instructions or not participating in the classroom may not be able to hear his/her teacher very well. In quiet situations a child may be able to hear well enough, but not when several people are talking. If the loss is mild, the child will hear in some situations, or will understand with effort when they are very interested, but only for a short time, so it will seem as if they can hear when they want to! In this instance, the effort of hearing can become tiring, which may mean that a student’s hearing or attentiveness decreases markedly during the day.
Short Term Causes of Hearing Loss
A cold can mean a stuffy nose, headache and blocked ears. The ears become blocked due to an excess of mucus, which in some cases can lead to an ear infection. But this, along with the other symptoms, clears after a few days.
Hay fever sufferers also commonly find it affects their hearing. Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, which leads to watery eyes, sneezing, headaches and a blocked nose, and can be a miserable state of affairs. The blocked nose is caused by an inflammation of your nasal passageways and Eustachian tubes, which allows a build up of fluid within the middle ear. The build up of fluid results in temporary hearing loss.
Swimmers ear and other infections caused by water are other things to look out for if your child may be experiencing hearing loss, especially in the swimming season.
What It Means
The result of the factors above is that any hearing loss makes learning harder. Considering that every lesson is vital, even partial or fluctuating losses, which could go on for just a week or so, may have a serious affect on school performance. If your child’s hearing loss persists for longer than two weeks, it is important to see a GP or specialist.
Hay fever medication such as antihistamine tablets or an anti-inflammatory nasal spray will resolve the temporary hearing loss in situations where allergies or a cold is the cause of hearing loss.
It’s important to communicate with your child’s teachers if you are concerned that they may be experiencing hearing issues. Make arrangements or ask for your child to sit closer to the teacher and see whether that improves his/ her engagement, performance – or just levels of fatigue – at school.
Parents should be aware of the benefits a Soundfield system could bring to their child’s classroom – it could be that the school has to make suitable provision by law. Teachers should focus on reducing classroom noise, ensuring their voice is accessible and look at noise treatment solutions and noise monitors. It is also key to remember that since children often come to school with colds, it is good practice to put measures in place so that children don’t fall behind with their work.
Tom Parker, Managing Director at PC Werth says that modern classrooms should be able to make provision for learners with difficulty hearing and that this will also benefit all students because of the improved learning conditions “classes with appropriate acoustic treatments and an advanced AV sound system for hearing loss make it easier for all kids to hear and learn. The rule of thumb is that better environments equal better learning equals better results” He therefore suggests that each classroom has a sound broadcasting equipment installation suitable for children with hearing loss.
There are many ranges of specialist products available on the market that have the ability to assist teachers, as well as children with hearing impairments. For more information on SEN audio technology, feel free to contact us.