Even Minimal, Undetected Hearing Loss Hurts Academic Performance, Research
ROCKVILLE, MD (November 10, 2004)
An unidentified minimal
hearing loss is a significant factor in the psychosocial and educational
progress of young children, according to multiple research studies
conducted over the past 20 years at Vanderbilt University in Nashville,
Tennessee. Researchers presented their findings during the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) annual convention at
the Pennsylvania Convention Center, November 18-20, 2004.
Investigators found that children
with a hearing loss in one ear were ten times more likely
to suffer academic difficulties than their normal hearing peers.
They also found that one third of the children examined repeated
grades or required resource assistance in school.
A minimal hearing loss can
be in only one ear, both ears, or can be the inability to
hear high-pitched sounds. Children with this type of hearing loss are able
to hear many sounds in their environments, but they often miss soft sounds
or sounds of a particular frequency range. Children can have a minimal hearing
loss due to a variety of reasons, including genetics, complicated births or
deliveries, or exposure to ototoxic drugs. These minimal losses often go undetected
because children with such losses are believed to be ignoring or not paying
attention since they appear to hear with no apparent difficulty.
Professional opinion has often suggested that children with
minimal hearing loss would have no problems if they
were seated preferentially in the classroom; however, investigators
at Vanderbilt noted that a significant number of these children
were experiencing academic difficulties.
In a subsequent study, 1200 children
in the Middle Tennessee school systems were sampled
where several factors, including prevalence and type of hearing loss, scores
on several psychoeducational tests, school records,
and school district normative data were examined. Results indicated that 5.4%
of the children had a minimal hearing loss and these children exhibited significantly
lower scores on the psychoeducational tests or failed at least one grade as
compared to children with normal hearing. Follow up testing on these children
looked at performance issues, focusing on listening and attention
"The study revealed that children with a minimal hearing loss
clearly expended more effort in listening than children with
said Anne Marie Tharpe, PhD, CCC-A, assistant professor, Department of
Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University."These findings suggest
that class work may suffer if a child with hearing loss is expending extra
mental or cognitive effort to listen to the teacher, take notes, and process
what is being heard at the same time."
Researchers have already initiated new studies using other methodologies,
such as measuring salivary cortisol levels, which help to detect
stress and fatigue effects in children with mild hearing loss.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional,
scientific, and credentialing association for more than 115,000 audiologists,
speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.
Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing disorders
as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language
pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems including swallowing disorders.