Put a hearing test on your back-to-school list

Children from RIDBC Garfield Barwick School work on an activity with their teacher.

As families gear up for the start of the new school year, the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) is reminding parents of kindergarten children to put a hearing test on their back-to-school list.

In Australia, one in 1000 children is diagnosed with hearing loss at birth. For a further one in 1000 - a hearing loss is not detected until school age.  

Genelle Cook, Head Audiologist at RIDBC Jim Patrick Audiology Centre, said that a child starting school with an undiagnosed hearing loss is at a distinct disadvantage in the classroom.

“Research shows that, left undetected, even mild or unilateral hearing loss can result in difficulties in hearing in the classroom,” said Ms Cook. “If they are unable to hear clearly, children are less able to communicate effectively at school and this can have a negative impact on their behaviour and academic performance.

“These children will struggle to understand instructions in a noisy classroom environment and will often lose focus. They don’t understand what’s happening around them and they don’t know how to fix the problem.”

Newborn hearing screening has undoubtedly enhanced the outcomes for children with hearing loss. However more effort must be made to assist those children whose hearing loss has developed since the screening at birth.

“Detecting a hearing loss at birth ensures children are able to access quality early intervention from just a few weeks of age and this greatly improves their outcomes.  It allows us to fit infants with high-quality hearing aids and cochlear implants early on, to give them as much access to sound as possible,” said Ms Cook.

“There now needs to be more diligence in testing for hearing loss in toddlers and older children – even if they passed their test at birth – to ensure children with later onset of hearing loss are able to receive the expert support they need to reach their full potential.”

Ms Cook is encouraging all parents to get their children’s hearing tested before they start school and says there are signs that parents and child care workers can look out for.

“By age five, children should be able to speak in sentences of more than five words, tell a story, and be able to speak clearly enough to be understood by strangers. While all children learn at different speeds, a slow acquisition of language may be attributed to some level of hearing loss.”

To make an appointment to have your child’s hearing assessed contact 02 9872 0872.

RIDBC Jim Patrick Audiology Centre is a dedicated paediatric audiology centre which incorporates the latest technology for hearing assessment of children from birth onwards.

RIDBC Jim Patrick Audiology Centre was officially opened by Jim Patrick in 2002 in response to increased need for paediatric audiology services with the introduction of the NSW Statewide Infant Screening - Hearing (SWISH) Program. Mr Patrick is one of the original researchers involved with the cochlear implant program in Melbourne from 1975 and has worked in a number of senior managerial positions at Cochlear since its inception in 1981.

RIDBC is Australia’s largest provider of services for children with hearing or vision loss, assisting thousands of children a year across Australia.  As Australia’s premier provider of training and education for professionals in the field of sensory disability, RIDBC ensures that services delivered throughout government and non-government organisations remains cutting-edge. Visit www.ridbc.org.au for more information.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in children's lives.  In order to maintain its intensive educational and research programs, the organisation needs to raise approximately $2.5 million every month.