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Masters of Disguise: Is your child hiding a hearing issue?

Unmasking a hearing issue could be key to a positive experience at school

Children can be angels at school and devils at home.  But their ability to shape shift might be hiding a hearing issue that would benefit from further investigation.

Below is a guide to some behaviours that might be hiding a hearing issue.

The Troublemaker

Kids who are frustrated, aggressive, act out and have high energy levels are often identified as having symptoms of ADHD. But these symptoms are shared with undiagnosed hearing loss.  Underdeveloped communication skills, difficulty in hearing instructions and exhaustion from paying attention in loud classrooms all lead to frustration, aggression and acting out.


The Daydreamer

Staring out the window might not be a sign of wishing they were somewhere over the rainbow. A child with hearing loss finds it hard to hear in a noisy environment like a classroom. Exhaustion from straining to hear might mean that they take time out from listening hard. Alternatively they might not be aware that the teacher is talking to them because they simply can’t hear the teacher.


The Loud Talker

We have all found ourselves saying “I can’t hear myself think in this noise”. Kids with hearing loss often can’t hear themselves talk. They increase the volume of their voice in line with what they can hear. We can become accustomed to the volume at which someone speaks just like we don’t notice the extra inch they have grown. It might take an outsider to comment on how loud your child is talking before you think there is a problem.

The Silent Type

It is difficult to contribute to a conversation both inside the classroom and out if you don’t know someone is talking.  Some children’s hearing issue is interpreted as shyness.  They are not contributing to class discussions because it is too hard to hear.  The playground is equally tough. A child with hearing issues might find themselves isolated because they are missing out on the subtle communication between their peers.

The Hard Stare

Your child might not be looking into your eyes while you are speaking. They could be working very hard to watch your lips moving. Children learn to cover their inability to hear well by watching the lips, facial expressions and body language of the speaker for communication cues.  A simple test doctors use to check if a child is hiding a hearing loss is to place a piece of paper over their mouth while talking to the child. You can determine quickly if a child is depending on reading your lips to understand what you are saying.

The Collaborator

Communication cues are everywhere. The child who finds it hard to hear in a noisy classroom will use the rest of the class to help explain to them what the teacher is saying.  Some classroom layouts don’t facilitate children being able to see the teacher at all times.  Your master of disguise may never be noticed as having a hearing issue because their friends are giving them some of the information they need. But, they are missing out on important incidental information conveyed by voiced sounds.

Unmasking a hearing issue could change a child’s life

Kids are very adaptable.  They are skilled in finding strategies to ensure no unwanted attention is drawn to them. A hearing issue might not be the first consideration of a parent or a teacher. However, children with hearing issues benefit from early intervention.  A simple hearing test can determine if a child has a hearing issue. Once the hearing issue is identified they can start focusing on learning rather than their disguise.

Visit Sound Scouts website for more information about a hearing test that can be done at home.


Welcome to Sound Scouts – A Children’s Hearing Test

Hi. My name is Carolyn Mee and I am the Founder of Sound Scouts, a mobile App developed to check children’s hearing.

So why, you may ask, do we need a children’s hearing test. We know that in Australia children have their hearing checked at birth through the newborn hearing screening program, which is fabulous. This test picks up babies born with moderate to severe hearing loss and ensures they are fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants as early as possible to minimise the impact of their hearing loss on their development.

Unfortunately what many parents don’t realise is that for every child found to have hearing loss at birth at least two more children are detected with hearing loss in the first three years of school. Which means some children are at school for three years with a hearing loss that no one knows about and this loss can impact their learning, socialising and their self-esteem. And of course these are the children who are lucky enough to get noticed. There’s no doubt many others who struggle with undetected hearing loss throughout their school years.

All our children should have their hearing tested before they start school so they have every opportunity to succeed. But unfortunately hearing screening is not currently being offered to Australian children so it’s up to parents to ensure their children can hear.

For adults it’s hard to imagine that a child isn’t able to recognise that their ears aren’t working properly. But how does a child know what normal hearing is if they’ve never experience it. You don’t know what you don’t know. And children adapt. They learn to lip read and they take their cues from what others are doing around them. They get by. Or so they think.

We recently met a 12year old Year 5 boy, who had a moderate hearing loss that no one had noticed. He was a quiet young man who had become withdrawn and because he wasn’t causing a fuss no one worried about him. His life outcomes would have been seriously limited by his hearing loss if we had not picked it up. Other children with hearing issues become noisy and disruptive. Because they can’t hear they lose interest and draw attention to themselves. In this situation one child with undetected hearing loss in the classroom can affect the entire class.

So the question is not why test but why not test?

Sound Scouts lets adults check a child’s hearing at home or at school, at a time that suits them. The children love it and it gives everyone peace of mind that a child is not being disadvantaged by a condition that can be remedied.

If you’ve screamed at your child “Are you deaf?” then it might be time to check that they’re not!