childrens hearing at school


In the early stages of life, hearing is a critical part of a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive growth. Even a mild hearing loss can impact on a child’s ability to develop their speech and language skills adequately and can have a negative impact on educational outcomes.

Children’s Hearing

Hearing loss or processing disorders in children is a serious issue. It impacts children in the following ways:

  • Speech and language delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Communication problems, which can lead to difficulty in social games or groups, social withdrawal, isolation and decreased chance to learn appropriate social behaviours
  • Subsequent decrease in self-esteem and self-confidence

Early Intervention

In Australia, children have their hearing screened at birth, however, hearing loss can develop later without the parent or teacher being aware. Therefore, it is important to monitor for speech delay or difficulties in the classroom. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, it is advisable to request your paediatrician refer for a hearing assessment. Early intervention that is family-centred is key to help children to develop to their full potential.

Hearing loss can be present at birth:

  • Genetic factors
  • Prenatal exposure to a virus (for example rubella, cytomegalovirus or mumps)
  • Complications at birth

Hearing loss can also be acquired later in life. It can be due to disease or injury, such as:

  • Ear infections (otitis media) and subsequent “glue ear”
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Viruses such as chicken pox, measles, mumps, influenza
  • Head injury
  • Exposure to excessively loud sounds or noises

Shout Hearing Healthcare tests children aged 3 years and above. We provide referrals and comprehensive reports to your GP, paediatrician, ENT or speech pathologist as required. We also assess Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) for children aged from 7 years.

Children's hearing and CAPD early intervention

What is CAPD?

Auditory processing is the ability to process, recognise and interpret the sounds we hear. This occurs between the sound being detected by the ear and the signal being received in the brain. Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) means that there is a problem with the interpretation of sounds; when the signal is distorted, the brain cannot recognise and interpret it. CAPD is a deficit with the auditory system that is not due to a disorder of cognition, memory, attention or language (e.g. autism or ADHD); although CAPD may co-exist with other disorders.

Auditory processing includes:

  • Sound localisation
  • Auditory discrimination
  • Auditory pattern recognition
  • Temporal aspects of audition
  • Auditory processing of competing signals
  • Auditory processing of degraded signals

Children with CAPD usually do not have a hearing loss, however, they will have a reduced ability to:

  • Discriminate between sources of sound
  • Inhibit unwanted sounds
  • Interpret subtle parts of speech such as pitch, stress, intonation

This difficulty with understanding the subtle differences in speech sounds becomes a lot worse in background noise or when the information is complex; which is why the classroom is an environment that is often challenging for children with CAPD.

What signs may indicate CAPD?

Children with auditory processing difficulty typically have normal hearing and intelligence, however, they cannot make sense of what they are hearing. They will often have the following behavioural characteristics:

  • Difficulty hearing in background noise
  • Difficulty in localising sound
  • Difficulty with oral instructions; particularly if they have more than one step
  • Asks for repetition
  • Problems with fast speech
  • Difficulty with patterns of stress in language (prosody), which can cause problems with detecting humour or sarcasm, or with learning a foreign language
  • Problems with reading, spelling, and vocabulary
  • Easily distracted
  • Appear to lack attention or be withdrawn (possibly due to auditory fatigue)

These signs may be noticed by the parents or the teacher. Communicating with your child’s teacher will help to monitor if your child is struggling to understand information in the classroom.