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ADHD

23 September 2019

If a child's schoolwork slips, don't rule out hearing loss

There are children who have been diagnosed with a learning disability when really what they need is a hearing aid.

Falling school grades could be a sign of hearing loss in children, according to the American Academy of Audiology.

"A child with just minor hearing loss can be missing a significant amount of the classroom discussion," said academy president Lisa Christensen.

Signs often unrecognised

"There are children who have been diagnosed with a learning disability when really what they need are hearing aids," Christensen added in an academy news release. She's with Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Along with struggles in the classroom, hearing problems can lead to behavioural issues, lack of focus and even depression in children.

Many children with hearing loss don't recognise that they have a problem, and parents may not recognise the signs.

  • Look for difficulty following through with assignments and often seeming unable to understand the task. Other tipoffs include not understanding questions and either not responding or not responding appropriately.
  • Children with hearing problems may struggle to pronounce simple words or repeat a phrase. They may also have articulation problems or language delays.
  • Does your child often ask you to repeat things, watch your face intently in order to understand what you're saying or have difficulty hearing on the phone? Those could be signs of hearing loss, too.
  • Some other red flags: speaking loudly when not warranted, having chronic ear pain, complaining of noises they can't identify, and struggling to keep up in school.

"Often parents and teachers overlook the fact that a child's behaviour may be a sign of hearing loss," Christensen said.

Total number unknown

"If parents suspect an issue, they should have their child evaluated by an audiologist. Audiologists have the tools and training to identify hearing loss, degrees of hearing loss, and can recommend solutions," she said.

About two to three of every 1 000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, according to the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

However, many cases go undiagnosed, and the total number of US children with some type of hearing loss is unknown.

Image credit: iStock

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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