School Hearing Screening Program

AAIHB’s school hearing screening program checks the hearing of approximately 2000 Native American children each year. Screenings are performed through Child Finds, Early Head Start/Head Start programs, and in school.

Why Are Hearing Screenings Important?

Children learn most of their speech and language skills by three years of age. Normal hearing is required to hear speech sounds properly.  

Even a mild or temporary hearing loss can result in a speech and language delay.  Ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss in young children.  Routine hearing tests can help prevent long-term hearing problems, speech/ language delays, and behavioral and academic issues.

How is My Child’s Hearing Checked?

The hearing screening consists of three parts:

  1. Otoscopic evaluation: We check your child’s ears for wax or objects that could interfere with hearing.  We also look at the eardrum for redness or swelling.
  2. Middle ear screening: This test is very quick and painless. It shows if an ear infection is present by putting a small amount of air into the ear canal to move the eardrum.  If the eardrum moves normally, there is no fluid or infection in the ear. If there is no eardrum movement, it may mean that your child has an ear infection. This can cause a temporary hearing loss and requires a visit to the doctor.  Ear infections are sometimes treated with medication.
  3. Pure Tone Hearing Screening: To check hearing, children are asked to point to their ears when a soft sound is heard through headphones.
  4. OAE Screening: For very young children, we use a test called an OAE screener.  This quick and painless test delivers sound to the ear and the screener receives a response from the inner ear if the sound is received.

Both tests check the hearing at a very soft level to make sure that your child can hear the soft sounds of speech.

What If My Child Fails the Hearing Screening?

  • If your child passes all three parts of the hearing screening, you will NOT be notified.
  • If your child fails the otoscopic examination (too much wax in the ear, for example) or the middle ear test, your child will be referred to his or her physician. Following medical treatment, your child will be re-tested.
  • If your child fails the pure tone hearing screening, he or she will be retested within a month.  If the child fails again, your child will be referred to the audiologist for a hearing test.
  • Failing the hearing screening does not mean that your child has a permanent hearing loss.  However, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you follow the recommendations given to you.  This is the only way to rule out a serious hearing problem and prevent speech, language, and learning delays.