Triple L Paediatric Speech Pathology and Audiology, Redlands City

Middle Ear Effusion And Conductive Hearing Loss In The Classroom Setting

Babies who pass their newborn hearing screen may still be at risk of developing a hearing loss due to middle ear infections, effusion and/or infection.

All children born in Australia have their hearing screened at birth. However, babies who pass this screening may still be at risk of developing a hearing loss later in life. The most common cause of hearing loss in young children is middle ear effusion and/or infection. Although a child may report an ear infection since they will usually be in pain, middle ear effusion in the absence of infection (commonly referred to as ‘glue ear’) can continue for months without being identified and is the most common cause of mild to moderate conductive hearing loss in young children.

Hearing Loss and the Classroom

A conductive hearing loss coupled with the generally poor acoustics within a classroom can cause children to struggle significantly to hear during lessons or group work. Ongoing fluctuating hearing loss may also cause auditory processing difficulties due to auditory deprivation i.e. the brain does not develop the ability to process sound normally due to a lack of auditory stimulaiton. 

childrens hearing tests wellington point
Many schools have Hearing Screening programs with screening usually taking place during the Prep year. A hearing screening provides a quick means of identifying whether a child may be struggling to hear and may even indicate the possible cause of their hearing difficulty e.g. whether there is middle ear effusion.

School Hearing Screen

During a school hearing screen the following is usually completed:

  • Otoscopic examination: used to identify visible abnormalities of the outer ear, ear canal and eardrum
  • Tympanometry: a test of the middle ear function used to identify disorders of the middle ear e.g. middle ear effusion
  • Pure tone screening: to establish whether the child is able to hear at a normal level across the major speech frequencies (0.5 to 4 kHz)

Should a child fail a school hearing screen, they will usually be referred to an audiologist for a full assessment to determine the precise degree and nature of their hearing loss. It is important to note that middle ear effusion is not the only cause of hearing loss after birth and therefore a full diagnostic audiology assessment is essential to ensuring that any hearing loss identified is treated appropriately.

Should their results indicate a conductive hearing loss in the presence of middle ear effusion, the child can then be referred to a specialist e.g. Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist for medical management. There are also many classroom adjustments that an audiologist can recommend based on the results of a hearing assessment that can help children who are experiencing fluctuating conductive hearing loss so that they are more able to access their lessons while their hearing loss persists.