Attention and Hearing

Why isn’t my child paying attention? Why is she getting frustrated listening in class? How come he isn’t following directions?

As any parent will tell you, these are questions with no easy answers. For some children, however, attention issues may be the direct result of hearing difficulty.

On the most basic level, it’s easy to see how hearing difficulties can affect concentration and performance. If you can’t hear, you can’t learn. ASHA writes: “Hearing sounds and words helps children learn to talk and understand. A child with hearing loss misses out on these sounds. This can cause problems with speaking, reading, school success, and social skills.” The ability to hear is tied directly to a child’s development. There are even links between hearing problems and ADHD.

If you notice your child struggling to hear, it’s important to get tested. But don’t jump to conclusions. Even if they’re displaying difficulty comprehending speech in noise, their hearing may be fine; they might have something called an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD or CAPD), which can affect up to 5% of school-aged children. APD is sometimes mistaken for ADHD and can be understood as a “glitch in the brain’s ability to filter and process sounds and words.”

What can you do?

Early intervention is crucial. Visit your PCP or audiologist if you notice prolonged attention problems or any warning signs of hearing loss. Depending on the reason behind and the severity of a child’s hearing difficulty, treatment and management can help him or her stay on course with their peers.