Prepared to listen

The conversations outside the classroom as we wait for the end of the day pick-up are always interesting, writes Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

One recent one concerned the discovery that a son’s naughtiness had turned out to be the result of a hearing problem; a not unusual finding.

Since so much learning and development takes place before a child reaches school age, undetected hearing problems can dramatically disadvantage youngsters in their educational achievement and the development of language skills. Social, behavioural and emotional problems can follow as a consequence.

This means that parents have a significant role in detecting hearing problems during those early years and, in fact, almost half of the cases of hearing loss are first detected by parents. But this also means that, for the other half, the hearing loss may go undetected for several more years.

The problem is that being so close to a child makes detection quite difficult, especially in babies. Bearing in mind that babies develop at different rates, here are some signs of a potential problem:

A lack of response to loud noises.

• Being startled by suddenly seeing you, having not heard your arrival.

• By 10 months babies should be turning the head quickly to detect new sounds.

• By 18 months they should be well into recognising words and the names of familiar items and imitating your words.There are a greater number of signals you can look for in older children, including:

• Speech not progressing.

• Repeated failure to carry out instructions.

• Watching to see what others do before following an instruction.

• Not responding to sounds or voices in another room.

• Difficulty in locating the source of a sound or looking questioningly as if not sure whether they heard something or not.

• Difficulty in repeating nonsense statements or tongue-twisters.

Intelligent youngsters become very good at compensating, while some of the signals can come across as naughtiness or outright disobedience. Reprimand and punishment can make life even more confusing and frustrating than it already is.

It may seem to you that these behaviours are just the way your child is. If someone else, perhaps a teacher or child-minder, comments to you about your child’s hearing, don’t get defensive or feel guilty but check it out for yourself. Create some simple hearing tests and look for some of the signals listed above.

If a  problem seems possible contact your doctor.

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