A school classroom is a noisy place, especially for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. It can be more difficult for children with hearing loss to hear the teacher’s instructions in the presence of noise. Research shows that even mild hearing loss makes it hard for children to listen and learn in a classroom environment. To ensure students are hearing optimally, Texas Hearing Institute partners with schools around the Greater Houston area to provide hearing screenings for school-aged children.
What is a Hearing Screening?
Hearing Screenings are an important tool used to identify children with possible hearing loss who were not identified at birth or who developed hearing loss later in life. A hearing screening can also assist in identifying possible middle ear dysfunction, such as fluid behind the eardrum, congestion, or a possible ear infection. Hearing screenings are most commonly administered once a year in schools for children in Pre-K, Kindergarten, first, third, fifth, and seventh grade.
It is highly recommended if a child demonstrates difficulty hearing or fails a hearing screening that they are seen by a specialized audiologist. Identifying hearing difficulties early on can assist in providing the best resources to ensure academic performance, speech, language, and social skills are not affected.
How is the Hearing Screening administered?
Students are brought into a quiet room where various screening stations are set up. The examiner will introduce themselves to the child and instruct them based on their age. Older children, they will often be asked to raise their hand when they hear a tone. Younger children are taught how to play a listening game—each time they hear a tone, they drop a bear in a bucket. A pair of over-the-ear headphones are used to present the tones to each ear individually.
The hearing screening examiner will present pure tones at a louder level to ensure the student understands the task. Once it is clear the student is conditioned, the examiner will screen in each ear individually at a level of 25dB HL across three different frequencies or pitches: 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz. The student needs to respond at least twice to each frequency at the soft level of 25dB HL in order for it to be considered a passing response.
What happens if the child doesn’t respond to all frequencies?
If a student does not respond at 25dB HL for any of the three frequencies, they are sent to a follow-up/re-screen station. At this station, an examiner will look in both ears and run a tympanometry test that assesses the status of the middle ear.
Tympanometry can provide valuable information regarding how well the eardrum is working and if there is any fluid or congestion in the middle ear space. If the tympanometry test indicate excessive wax, fluid, or congestion behind the eardrum, then the student is referred for a medical consultation and a re-screen following medical treatment. An accurate screening cannot be completed if the child is experiencing any middle ear dysfunction. If the tympanometry test indicates both eardrums are moving well, the hearing screening will be attempted once more. If the student is unable to condition or respond at normal levels of 25dB HL, then they will be referred for a diagnostic hearing evaluation with a clinical audiologist.
If your child fails a school screening or shows signs of difficulty hearing, it is strongly recommended to follow-up with an audiologist for further diagnostic testing because the earlier children with hearing loss are identified, the sooner necessary tools and resources can be provided to enhance their academic performance.