The Impact of Hearing Problems:
Hearing is probably, perhaps after vision, the most important human sense. There are people who feel they can get along without good hearing, often superimposing their communication needs on their vision. Often reading lips or relying on gestures. Adults with poor hearing can suffer from distorted and incomplete communication that can damage relationships, both personal and business relationships. Everyone expects to be heard and understood. A person whose hearing fails, where communication breaks down will suffer lasting social and personal effects. Poor hearing is often an underlying cause of social isolation, depression, and other forms of social maladjustment.
It may be considerably worse if hearing is impaired in childhood. Hearing loss in childhood could cause failure of social development at particular critical stages. It could cause poor school performance. Educators not aware of a hearing problem could mischaracterize the learning capacity of a child which could cause a lifetime of poor occupational and social outcome.
Mandated Post-Natal Hearing Screenings:
In 2013, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), in line with all other states, mandated pre-discharge physiology-based hearing screening for newborn infants before they are discharged from hospitals or free-standing birthing clinics. Two alternative standard hearing screening protocol can be administered.
- One technique evaluates an autonomic response to sound in the infant’s brain stem as measured by an electroencephelogram (EEG). Using this technique, professional audiologists are able to assess the softest sound that elicits a response.
- The other alternative is to use a small microphone and sound generator placed in the infant’s ear canal. When the infant’s ear responds to a sound the nerve “feeds back” an “autoacoustic emission” which matches the sound “heard” by the ear. The microphone picks up the feedback emission. In that way the audiologist can detect the softest sound that receives a response.
If an infant’s hearing does not meet a standard for “passing” the screening, the audiologist and other professionals will follow-up to assess the reasons.
- Birth fluid may be left in the ear of the infant impeding hearing.
- Common ear infection may cause fluid to accumulate behind the eardrum.
A follow-up test after a week “drying-out” period is most often passed. A complete diagnostic audiometry will be conducted to diagnose any problems that persist. All birthing centers must administer the hearing screenings and follow-up hearing tests for infants who did not pass the initial screening. Results of the screenings must be reported confidentially, in writing, to parents or guardians prior to discharge.
Mandated School Hearing Screenings:
Before that, in 2002, the ODH mandated confidential school hearing screening for pre-school and elementary school grades following ODH Guidelines. These screenings are designed to identify children with hearing loss not identified in infancy or who developed hearing problems later. In a quiet room, the child is asked to raise a hand whenhe or she hears a sound through headphones. Tones ranging from 500 Hz to 4,000 Hz (frequencies in the spectrum of the common human voice) are presented at a range of loudness levels. according to a strict standard protocol for each ear. Results are scored as “Pass” or “Refer.” Missing any of the test tones warrants a “Refer” score and the child is referred for further testing.
Adult Hearing Assessments:
Adult hearing assessments address the problem of hearing loss as part of aging or caused by other factors. Audiologists conduct hearing screenings for people who suspect their hearing is defective. The hearing tests aid the audiologist in the correct prescription for hearing aids. Interestingly, many people feel that they have hearing problems where the hearing assessments turn out to be normal. One study found that 20 percent of people who think they have hearing problems test normal and 6.2 percent of people who think they are normal, test as having significant hearing problems. Hearing loss in people who test normal can be due to neural processing disorders.
The United States Department of Labor requires workplaces with noise hazards to conduct regular adult hearing screenings to detect possible permanent or temporary hearing loss among their employees. Significant hearing loss is cause for a workers compensation action.
The Delaware Speech and Hearing Center, founded in 1959, is an award winning non-profit organization that serves more than 5,000 people every year in the Delaware County and Columbus, Ohio area. Please contact us to learn more.