Hearing and vision problems can, unfortunately, go hand in hand, and these issues are quite common in children. While co-occurring hearing and visual problems can have a detrimental effect on the educational outcome of a child, they are often not officially identified.
Either difficulty, on its own, can be a large barrier for most kids to break through, but when combined, they can really have negative and lasting consequences. In a study that was compiled from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a large population-based birth cohort in England, researchers established individuals with both hearing and visual challenges.
They began tracking their progress at age seven, then advanced to the study groups’ academic growth at the age of ten by taking information from their standardized national exams and comparing them. Not surprisingly, researchers found that for children with co-occurring hearing and visual challenges there was consistent and negative educational fallout. The study is credited for providing an obvious reason to instigate early identification and intervention of children with co-occurring sensorial issues.
Of the 2,909 children included in this study, 261 (9%) had difficulties hearing, 189 (6.5%) had difficulties with vision, and 14 (0.5%) had co-occurring hearing and visual difficulties. According to the research, this last group had a lower probability of reaching the national target at Key Stage 2 in the areas of English, math, and science when compared to children with no visual or hearing issues.
At the time of the study, the team wasn’t aware of any other research on the topic of the educational outcomes of children with both mild hearing and visual problems. It was noted that the issue of speech perception was strongly linked to the expansion and advancement of a child’s language skills and ability to communicate. The addition of a hearing or visual impairment is quite likely to have an even more significant impact on the child’s literacy development.
Hearing loss can have long term effects on a child’s life, and the younger they are when the loss occurs, the more significant it can be. Likewise, the earlier it’s identified, the sooner intervention can start and the better the outcome will be. Hearing loss in children can affect them in four major areas:
- It can cause a delay in the development of speech and language skills
- Due to delayed or reduced language skills, there could be additional learning problems which result in a lower academic performance
- Difficulties in communication often lead to social isolation as well as a diminished sense of self-confidence
- It could even impact future occupational choices
With a lessened ability to hear, most people utilize their other senses. In this case, the sense of sight is not optimal either and this leads to more opportunity for the child to become frustrated and fall behind. When combined with decreased visual skills, the loss of hearing is magnified. The two create a very difficult path for the child to have much academic achievement, and also a difficult time functioning socially.
Without optimal hearing, a child’s ability to learn speech cues, differentiate sounds such as vowels or certain consonants, or regulate their own volume thus disrupting others could be hard to overcome. Trouble grasping reading and math concepts, learning social skills, and even behavioral issues are not uncommon.
For kids without optimal sight, the ability to learn things like visual cues such as flashcards or sign language, even colors, numbers, or the alphabet is at risk. Problems seeing nearby book work or board work at a distance can put a damper on their desire to learn to read. According to experts, about 80 percent of a child’s learning at school is presented in a visual format.
Co-occurring issues at the early stage could lead to anxiety and depression, as well as low self-esteem. Symptoms of reduced visibility could include:
- Avoiding reading or close up work
- Blurred or double vision
- Closing or covering one eye in an attempt to see an object
- Crossed eyes, or eyes that seem to move independently of each other
- Difficulty identifying, remembering, or reproducing shapes
- Headaches and eye strain
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Shorter attention spans while working on visual tasks
- Tilting or turning the head to use only one eye
Symptoms of hearing loss could include:
- Difficulty responding at an appropriate volume
- Does not startle easily or react to loud sounds nearby
- Does not respond to nearby sounds or their name
- Limited, poor, or no speech
- Sits close to the TV or stereo, wants them at extremely loud volumes
- Surprised when they realize their name has been called several times
- Unaware when someone out of their line of vision is talking
Keep these things in mind if you know a youngster who exhibits any symptoms of hearing or visual delays. Contact a hearing health professional immediately to schedule a visit. By having your child diagnosed as early as possible, there is a much greater chance for academic success and the ability for them to enjoy a full and rich life.