Is my child’s ADD really hearing loss?

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Contributed by Joy Victory, Editor, Healthy Hearing, and Lisa Packer
Last update 2022-01-04T00:00:00-06:00

If your child is having trouble concentrating and completing school homework, you may want to get them screened not only for attention deficit disorder (ADD), but also for childhood hearing loss. This is because the symptoms of these two common conditions are similar, and in some cases a child can have both.

What is DDA?

If you or your child’s teacher suspect
your child had ADD, be sure to get
their hearing checked, because the symptoms
overlap.

ADD is a collection of behaviors with no known cause and has no definitive physical tests. Its symptoms can mimic other disorders such as hearing loss.

A child with ADD may be impulsive, have trouble paying attention in class, have poor organizational skills, avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort (like homework), and be easily distracted from peers.

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, a child with a very similar disorder – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – may also seem unable to sit still and try to tackle more one task at a time.

All children (and many adults) struggle with these skills, but if the person’s behaviors are significantly worse than those of their peers, it could be ADD or ADHD, the National Institute points out. of mental health.

Hearing loss can be mistaken for ADD or a learning disability

Even mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss up to 50% of what is said in class.

The increase in the number of ADHD diagnoses over the past few decades means that the likelihood of incorrect diagnoses or the potential for overlap with hearing loss is also increasing. According to hearing loss statistics, approximately 2 to 3 in every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. Even mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss up to 50% of what is said in class.

Some indicators of hearing loss that could be mistaken for ADHD include:

  • Poor school performance
  • Inattention
  • Does not respond when spoken to
  • To act
  • Inappropriate answers to questions
  • Low self esteem
  • Difficulty with social interactions

These symptoms can also cause the child to be diagnosed with a learning disability, when in reality it is hearing loss.

However, children with ADHD only tend to have normal speech language development on par with their peers, whereas a child with untreated hearing loss may also have delays in these areas.

In some cases, a child is affected by both conditions, but it is important to accurately determine the reason for a child’s poor academic performance or inattentiveness to avoid misdiagnosis of ADHD, unnecessary medications, and to determine the best course of action to help a child. succeed in school.

The good news: treating hearing loss will significantly help a child in school, whether or not they have ADHD.

“It can be very difficult to determine” which condition is causing problems

It’s easy to see where the lines fade, especially when a child has already been diagnosed with one or the other.

“It can be very difficult [for parents] to determine whether or not a hearing-impaired child has ADHD,” Nanette McDevitt, PsyD, Med., of the Greater Minnesota Assessment Service (GMAS) told Minnesota Hands and Voices. “Hearing loss can be like trying to listen on a cell phone when it stops and cuts out. It’s very difficult to maintain your attention when you can’t get all the information. It can be very difficult to get there. attend, and it can look like ADHD.

Diagnosis is key

An accurate diagnosis is the key to a child’s academic success, followed by appropriate intervention and treatment.

In children with hearing loss and ADHD, hearing loss tends to be diagnosed first, thanks to mandatory newborn hearing screening programs and observable behaviors obvious to astute parents. Hearing loss and ADHD testing are different processes, and hearing loss is much easier to diagnose and quantify.

Some hearing tests do not require the patient’s active participation and can still provide valuable information. ADHD, on the other hand, is diagnosed by observing behavioral and psychological symptoms and answering a series of questions, and it can be somewhat subjective.

Speech and language delays in children with hearing loss

Some hearing-impaired children may have delays in speech and language development. Unless they have received early diagnosis, intervention and treatment in the form of pediatric hearing aids or cochlear implants, as well as speech therapy, they often lag behind their peers in this area. .

If a child cannot hear their teacher, they will have difficulty concentrating, paying attention, and completing homework, which could falsely indicate ADHD.

In cases where hearing loss has already been diagnosed, it is important to note the effectiveness of programs in place for intervention such as amplification, speech therapy programs, and academic and classroom support. If the child’s behavior and academic progress are not improving, then it may be appropriate to start testing for ADHD to determine if there are other issues beyond hearing loss. A speech therapist can still be very helpful, helping your child’s social, organizational and speech skills.

Whether a child has ADHD, hearing loss or both, the key to success is early, professional diagnosis and management by a team of trained medical professionals.

If you suspect hearing loss, see a hearing care professional for a formal audiological evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as recommendations for managing educational goals. Consult a pediatrician or psychologist for professional help if you suspect your child may have ADHD.

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