B2S Health: detecting hearing problems

Hearing problems are one of the main reasons students fall behind in the classroom. A simple hearing screening can check what is happening inside of the ear and ensure your student is on track for a successful year.

Maplewood Middle School 7th grade student, Rylie Bryant, is undergoing a hearing screening at Hearing Solutions of Louisiana with audiologist, Jake Cavanaugh.  "Every time you hear the beep," he said, "I want you to raise your hand."

It is a five minute test starting with a baseline volume that Rylie should be able to hear.  "We'll adjust our volume to get to 20 decibels and then we'll test at different frequencies," said Cavanaugh.

It does not take much, according to Cavanaugh, to cause hearing loss.  "If the child has a small infection or something going on in the middle ear," he said, "it can cause the child to have a transient hearing loss and classrooms are not a quiet place. They need all the help they can get out of their hearing system."

Rylie knows the pain of ear infections.  "It just made my ear hurt a lot," she said.

It is not just the pain a youngster endures - learning can be impacted in a classroom.  "If they're in class and they can't hear, then they won't have good grades," said Rylie.

Schools require that every student undergo a hearing screening every other year. If the student fails that screening, he or she will then be referred to an audiologist for a thorough diagnostic test.  "If the parent notices that the kid has the TV turned up louder or the kid is saying 'huh' or 'what' a lot more and not responding to the parent as they usually would, a trip to the audiologist is a good idea," said Cavanaugh.

Exposure to excessive noise from TVs, iPods and gunshots can cause the "listening" hair cells inside the ear to wear down.  "Over time, when the sound continually goes over these cells or hairs," said Cavanaugh, "it can cause damage leading to hearing loss."

Cavanaugh says turning down the volume can help protect your hearing, but if it has become a bigger issue or other factors are making it hard to hear, there are solutions.  "If it's something more severe, more long-term, the patient might need a hearing aid or a speaker system provided by the school board in the classroom," said Cavanaugh.

With the school year just kicking off, now is the best time to address any hearing problems. Once a hearing problem is detected, screenings will become more frequent - from the standard of every other year to once or possibly twice a year.

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