How Co-Occurring Hearing and Visual Problems Are Affecting Children’s Education

Studies have shown the difficulties children face in educational settings when struggling with hearing loss or visual complications. Social isolation, stunted emotional, social, and cognitive development, and decreased academic performance are all possible outcomes with children who are dealing with one of these complications, but a new study from The Centre for Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Bristol has found that when children must juggle both co-occurring hearing and visual setbacks, an enduring negative impact on educational outcomes is likely—greater than the effect of hearing or visual difficulties alone, providing even further support for the early identification of affected children and early intervention.

How Hearing Affects Education

Children with mild to moderate hearing loss often find difficulties during academic settings in numerous ways that are not always so obvious. For example, children with severe hearing loss at the beginning stages of their education may have difficulties developing their vocabulary and with language acquisition. When a child has difficulty hearing, the areas of the brain used for communication may not develop at similar rates to their hearing healthy peers, making understanding speech patterns increasingly difficult.

Language development is not the only complication when it comes to hearing loss in our schools. Studies have shown that children with hearing loss often experience difficulty participating in social activities such as team sports or group projects, making it difficult for some children to develop necessary social skills. This leads to self-isolation, depression, anxiety, and externalized aggressive behavior, stunting their ability to thrive in an academic setting.

How Visual Problems Can Hinder Academic Development

Like hearing loss, decreased visual acuity has also been linked to complications in academic development. Unfortunately, the impact of most common visual difficulties on academic achievements is not well known, but decreased visual acuity has been associated with reduced literacy. According to Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization, one in four school-aged children are faced with vision problems that if left untreated, can affect their ability to learn and socialize.

University of Bristol’s Conclusions

After understanding the complications children often face with a visual impairment or hearing loss in educational settings, Dr. Matilda Hill had sought to fill the gap in research regarding co-occurring hearing and visual problems in children and how this co-occurrence affects educational outcomes. “To our knowledge, the impact of common, mild hearing and visual difficulties on children’s educational outcomes has not previously been studied,” Dr. Hill explains, “However, it is well established that the integration of auditory and visual information underpins many cognitive processes, including speech perception, and is essential to the development of language and communication skills.”

To research this, Dr. Hill and her team had identified 14 children with hearing and visual complications that demonstrated a strong negative association between these co-occurring problems and poor academic achievement at age 10 during standardized national exams. This poor academic performance persisted even after adjusting for confounding factors and was far greater than the impact of hearing loss alone. From her findings, Dr. Hill had found that routine hearing and vision screenings were crucial to successful early intervention.

For children struggling with hearing loss in academic settings, it’s important to seek out the advice of a hearing health professional. A routine screening and early intervention may be what helps your child succeed in their education.

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