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How Hearing Loss Affects School Performance

Hearing loss in children has a significant impact on their academic performance in school. This has been proven through extensive research and numerous studies over several years’ time.

Multiple studies were done at Vanderbilt University in Nashville TN over a period of 20 years. The studies showed, when compared to their peers with normal hearing, children who had a loss of hearing in just one ear had a 10 times greater risk of experiencing academic problems.

Any amount of hearing loss is significant to the quality of a child’s education, but the severity of the loss plays a huge role in how much auditory information is even available to the child.

Children and Hearing Aid Devices

While hearing aids and other hearing technologies can enhance a student’s ability to hear, they only work when the child actually wears them. If a child has a hearing aid and only wears it at school, they miss out on roughly 80% of other auditory information, such as vocabulary and social language learning.

The bulk of vocabulary (80%-90%) is learned through “incidental language” learning, meaning the words a child learns in the course of their day. If they’re not wearing their hearing aid device at home, they’re missing out on a major percentage of the learning experience.

Impact of Hearing Loss on School Performance

It doesn’t really matter if it’s mild or minimal hearing loss, tinnitus, sensorineural, or profound, any amount of hearing loss will affect a child’s performance in school and is often directly proportional to the severity of the loss.

Students who are hearing impaired lose access to a great deal of information from the conversations surrounding them every day. Many words sound the same to them, so they’re forced to use a great deal of effort to try to distinguish what’s being said around them, in addition to conversations directed to them.

The extra listening effort is required constantly, and can quickly lead to fatigue for the child. Some additional factors that contribute to listening effort fatigue include:

  • Auditory Bombardment – If a child is wearing some sort of hearing aid device, they’re being bombarded with a huge amount of auditory stimulation that’s very difficult to ignore.
  • Identifying Speech Sounds – As mentioned earlier, many words sound the same or very similar to children with hearing loss. They must spend a considerable amount of effort just differentiating speech sounds, like the difference between mother and brother, or father and daughter.
  • Cognitive Load – When new content is presented to a student with hearing loss, they spend most of their energy identifying speech sounds. This leaves them little cognitive power to process and store the new information.
  • Stressful Learning – For normal hearing students, most of these issues are addressed easily, with very little conscious thought needed. For children suffering with a hearing disorder, the constant listening, learning and rethinking is very tiring and extremely stressful. Studies have suggested that learning cannot even occur during periods of stress.

Do You Suspect Your Child Has a Hearing Loss?

If you think your child may have some degree of hearing loss, the good news is there are now more hearing technologies than ever before that can help improve, not just their school performance, but their overall quality of life.

The most important thing is to have them tested as soon as you suspect there may be a problem. The sooner you can determine the cause and level of loss, the faster your child can be on their way to hearing the world in a whole new way.


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