Expert: Unaddressed hearing woes could make school life miserable

Mike Moen

(Minnesota News Connection) Parents across the nation have been feverishly helping their kids get ready for the new school year. A health expert says if hearing has been an issue for the child, it's something that can't be left off the to-do list.

Dr. Kelly Conroy, an audiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said every two to three children out of 1,000 have hearing loss. If a student can't hear what's happening in the classroom, she said, it might appear that it's an issue of being inattentive. However, Conroy said this could be a sign they're struggling to engage with the learning process because of their hearing. 

"And that can definitely be something that can be progressive," she said, "or it can be something that is intermittent, based upon other issues with their ears."

That could include recurring symptoms from an untreated ear infection, or it could stem from prolonged exposure to loud volumes from sources such as headphones. Either way, she said, it could hurt academic performance, especially for young kids developing speech skills.

Even if your school has screenings, Conroy encouraged parents to bring up the issue with their family doctor, and a specialist referral could be provided, if needed.

In the meantime, Conroy said families can ask the school to make some accommodations while long-term solutions are sought. 

"The classroom is very noisy," she said, "and that's where the parents and teachers need to be really cognizant of that, certainly if they're aware of it, and have them seated in a place that's proper, where they can hear the teacher better."

She said hearing loss even in just one ear can negatively affect a student's ability to follow along in class. As for prevention, experts have said kids should follow the "60-60" rule, which is listening to music or video content through headphones at 60 percent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.