The Importance of Early Childhood Hearing Screenings

Early identification of hearing loss is essential to minimizing its negative effects on a child’s language, communication and social skill development. Because so much can be done to lessen the impact of hearing loss when detected early in a baby's life, Iowa has mandated newborn hearing screening (Iowa Code section 135.131). However, not all hearing losses are present at birth, so we cannot rely on statewide newborn hearing screening alone to identify hearing loss for all individuals. Ear infections and middle ear concerns are the most common causes of hearing loss in children. There are, however, many different causes of hearing loss, such as genetic causes, later-onset hearing loss, noise exposure, infectious diseases, accidents, etc., that can occur at any time during a child’s education and beyond. Even temporary causes of hearing loss, like ear infections, can affect a child’s ability to hear and access sounds. Unfortunately, this can have a detrimental effect on speech and language development.

Hearing loss is often considered an invisible disability. It is not always apparent that a child is having difficulty hearing. Infants or young children cannot tell us they have hearing loss, and one generally cannot see a hearing loss by looking at an individual. Unidentified or poorly managed hearing loss can mirror poor attention in class, lack of motivation, or decreased classroom participation. Even mild hearing loss can have a significant impact on a child’s learning.

Over half of instructional activities in today’s classrooms involve listening. Today’s classrooms are dynamic learning environments that rely primarily on listening. Learners require adequate hearing to be able to access their curriculum and follow along with their teacher's instruction. Hearing also has strong ties to the development of early literacy and learning of phonemic skills.

Iowa’s Area Education Agency (AEA) system provides services to identify and address hearing loss in a systematic and cost-effective way for Iowa’s learners. Iowa’s AEAs provide regular hearing screenings at district preschool programs, school buildings and Head Start programs. These hearing screenings are crucial to identifying hearing loss as early as possible in order to reduce the potential negative impact on a child’s development and education. Once hearing loss is identified, it doesn’t stop there! AEA audiologists work with educational teams to provide accommodations, strategies, supports and services to allow learners to meet their potential.

If you have a question about your child’s hearing at any age, please call your local AEA office to discuss the need for a hearing screening. AEA audiologists have advanced degrees, are licensed by the State of Iowa, and specialize in providing age-appropriate hearing testing and educational supports for your child from birth through the school years. We are here to help!