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Risk of Learning Delays through Hearing Loss

Media Release

New Zealand Audiological Society

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Children at Risk of Learning Delays through Hearing Loss

The New Zealand Audiological Society is warning of the long term damage mild hearing loss and noisy environments can have on a child’s learning and development.

“Many New Zealand children experience mild hearing loss, often attributed to middle ear infections, that can affect their learning,” says Lesley Hindmarsh, President of the New Zealand Audiological Society (NZAS). “Other factors such as background noise also make learning at this time more difficult.”

The Society is supporting the National Foundation for the Deaf’s Deaf Awareness Week this week which focuses on “tender ears” and noise in early childhood education settings.

International research has shown that children need to hear more of what is said to understand the meaning.

If adults hear only part of the sentence due to poor listening conditions, their knowledge of language helps them ‘fill in the gaps”. Children are not so good at doing this. Background noise or poor acoustics mean that the chances of a child hearing the full sentence and therefore understanding what has been said is reduced.

Over the last ten years the percentage of seven year olds with hearing loss has almost tripled (increased 2.8 times).

“It’s important to be vigilant if your child has an ear ache or ear infection. Having a hearing loss due to middle ear infection can affect a child’s ability to listen, learn and communicate,” says Mrs Hindmarsh. “Imagine trying to hear and learn when it feels like you have your fingers in your ears all the time.

“Even children with mild to moderate hearing losses can miss up to 50% of discussions in an educational setting.

“Unmanaged hearing loss in children can affect a child’s speech and language development, academic capabilities, educational development , self-image and social/emotional development,” says MrsHindmarsh.

The NZAS is advising parents and caregivers to:

• Get your child’s ears checked if you think they may have an infection or are concerned about their hearing.

• Reduce background noise and exposure to noise – particularly in early childhood education settings or school. This can often be achieved with changes in furnishings such as adding rugs or carpets, curtains or other soft furnishings in the room.

• Eliminate exposure to excessive loud sounds – if it’s too loud for you, it’s too loud for them.

• Ask your GP to refer you to a local NZAS Audiologist. There are
special, reasonably simple tests that can be performed with babies, infants and toddlers to check their hearing.

The New Zealand Audiological Society is the professional organisation representing qualified Audiologists and audiology in New Zealand.


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