That first pair of shiny school shoes, the spotless new backpack and the lunchbox crying out for its first apple. Starting school is an overwhelming experience for children and for parents. One part giddy excitement, three parts fear….and that’s the parents.
It’s hard to remember what it’s like for a five-year-old. Walking through those gates, surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of new faces, knowing you must wave your parents goodbye for the whole day, for what must seem like an eternity. Scary!
As parents and caregivers, we want to do everything we can to minimise the trauma for both the kids and ourselves. This means doing the obvious things like buying their uniform, packing lunch and trying to teach them the alphabet so they have a jump on their A-Z. But it also means doing a few not so obvious things, like checking their hearing and their sight.
There are a lot of places to get your child’s sight checked for free but when it comes to hearing checks the process isn’t quite so simple or affordable. Or at least it wasn’t until mother of three, Carolyn Mee, decided to help us out by developing Sound Scouts, a game based hearing check, delivered via an app. To get the science right Carolyn partnered with the National Acoustic Laboratories, the research arm of Hearing Australia. And to ensure the app was accessible Carolyn gained the support of the Department of Health so the app is now free for all Australian school aged children.
A survey of parents in 2019 showed that over 75% of parents hadn’t had their children’s hearing checked since they were born. Now you might be thinking what’s wrong with that. We did the newborn hearing check and my baby got the all clear. But the reality is that not all hearing issues are present at birth. In fact, most hearing loss is caused by middle ear issues, which typically develop after birth. This means it’s important to check your child’s hearing multiple times in their early years – once a year would be a great start.
If your child hasn’t done a hearing check recently and they are about to start school then now is the time to download the app and get testing. Children might be able to manage with a mild hearing loss at home but when you enter a classroom with 19+ other noisy children hearing becomes a whole lot harder. And making friends in the playground when you miss hearing half of what is said suddenly becomes a game of charades. Children need to hear to learn and socialise, so investing 10 minutes in a hearing check you can do at home is a no brainer.
Sound Scouts was specifically made for children about to start school but you can use it to test children 4 years and older. The instructions are incorporated in the app, follow them carefully and be sure to use good quality adult headphones and test in a quiet place. The test is cleverly disguised in three game activities so the children don’t even know they are being tested. At the end of the test you receive a report that will give an indication if the child’s results are within the normal range. If there’s a problem the report will provide some guidance on what to do next.
Hearing loss can impact reading, language development and learning in general. Hearing loss might be the reason for disruptive behaviour and depression. The sooner you identify hearing loss and address it the better chance your child will have of developing in line with their peers.
Hearing matters so don’t assume your child’s hearing is normal, check it and be sure. Give your child every opportunity to enjoy their school experience.
Download the app here