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How to prioritize your child's hearing in 2024

(BPT) - How is your child's hearing? If you're not quite sure, you're not alone. While parents routinely take their children to the pediatrician for annual checkups and vaccines, those appointments don't typically include hearing tests. And although elementary schools do hearing screenings, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) tells us the requirements vary from state to state, as does the frequency of the tests. Some are conducted every year, some every two or three years.

All of that ambiguity, along with other factors, leads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conclude we simply don't know how many children are living with hearing loss in the U.S. The CDC estimates the number of children who have some degree of hearing loss to be between one and five children per 1,000.

If your child is one of them, it is likely affecting their performance in the classroom academically and socially. After all, good hearing is about much more than just paying attention.

The importance of hearing in the classroom

Your child's hearing is a vital part of learning and their overall success in school. Here are some ways hearing affects their learning.

Language acquisition. Good hearing is vital for children to develop proper speech and language skills. Vocabulary building, grammar skills and the ability to distinguish one word from another all depend on keen hearing.

Comprehension. Kids needs to hear instructions, lectures, classroom discussions and more to understand what, exactly, they're expected to do. If they miss a key element such as if their teacher turns to the whiteboard instead of facing the class while explaining an assignment, their grade can reflect that.

Social development. Children with hearing loss can experience social isolation due to fear of interacting with peers or participating in class. If a child is acting out, frustration around undiagnosed hearing loss may be a cause.

Fortunately, there are more resources and interventions than ever before to help your child's hearing.

Ways your child can hear better in the classroom

If you suspect your child may have a hearing loss, the first step is to talk to your pediatrician about a referral to a pediatric audiologist. A pediatric audiologist will test your child's hearing, discuss results, and determine whether hearing aids are recommended.

Pediatric hearing aids. Children's hearing aids have evolved into an art form in recent years. For example, Phonak's new Sky Lumity hearing aids have a sleek, tamperproof design and are powered by AutoSense Sky OS, an AI-based operating system developed specifically for children. According to Phonak, the hearing aids prioritize speech understanding at a rate of 700 scans per second. They instantly adjust to optimize a child's listening experience in every environment - from bedtime stories to the classroom party.

Sky hearing aids have universal Bluetooth connectivity to a multitude of smart devices, increasing a child's access to sound. The newest lineup encourages kids to express their creative side with 14 colors to choose from including Electric Green, Caribbean Pirate and Precious Pink.

Roger for Education microphones. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public entities, like schools, to make educational opportunities, including extracurriculars, accessible to all students. One way to do that is with a high-tech remote microphone technology, like Roger. Designed to interface with or without hearing aids, Roger microphones can be worn around the neck of a teacher, whose voice is then transmitted directly to a child's hearing device or through portable classroom speakers.

Why is this extra step needed? Hearing aids can only do so much in noisy classrooms, especially over distance. Roger gives their hearing a boost, automatically adjusting the volume based on the noise level. Because of the ADA, remote microphone technology like Roger can be among the accommodations defined in the child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). As such, there is no cost to parents for a device like this to be purchased by the school.

Simple classroom changes. Small changes that can have a profound impact on a child's comprehension are seating the child in the front row, teachers not turning their backs to the class while speaking, allowing extra time for kids to process assignments, providing written instructions on all assignments and other low-tech tactics to make sure kids get the full picture.

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