Parents prefer hearing screenings for kids

Published on December 10, 2012 at 11:09 AM · No Comments

Just yelling "turn it down" isn't enough when young people are blasting music directly into their ears via earbuds and headphones, parents say. A new poll from the University of Michigan shows parents are strongly in favor of required hearing screenings for kids all the way up to age 17.

The University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health recently asked a nationwide sample of parents of children 0-17 years old about whether they'd support requirements for hearing screening and where they'd prefer to have the screening done.

Overall, two-thirds of parents support hearing screening across all age groups. In the poll, 77 percent supported required hearing screening for 2- to 3-year-olds; 82 percent were in support for 6- to 7-year-olds; 71 percent for 10- to 11-year-olds; and 67 percent for 16- to 17-year-olds.

"Screening in preschool and elementary school-age children is routine in many states. That screening is very effective at identifying children with hearing loss that can impact communication. Screenings can help get children the treatment they need before they experience delays in speech, language, and learning," says Jaynee Handelsman, Ph.D., director of pediatric audiology for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"What was surprising about the poll results was the overwhelming support for required hearing screening for older children and teenagers," says Handelsman.

"Hearing screening for tweens and teens is uncommon. However, as the parents in our poll recognize, children in these age groups may develop hearing loss as time goes on, possibly from extended listening to loud noise, such as through personal, portable listening devices like MP3 players," Handelsman says.

Handelsman says that the poll results are encouraging because they show parents recognize the need for continual screening. A student might pass the hearing tests as a kindergartener, but develop hearing loss or hearing problems at a later age.

Exposure to loud music through earbuds, headphones and personal audio devices can be damaging, Handelsman says, but the duration of sound can be just as damaging. If children are constantly bombarded with sound - from music players, computers, televisions, video games - they reach a point where they've heard too much.

The inspiration for a National Poll related to childhood hearing came from Marci M. Lesperance, M.D; division chief of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan Health System.

"We really wanted to know how parents felt about requiring hearing screenings, and no one had asked the public about this before," says Lesperance. "Hearing screenings are usually managed through public health departments, and as government budgets are squeezed, funding for these screenings is at risk.

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