Kids’ Hearing Can Impact Their Academics and Activities

Young school kids eating lunch at a table together

Kids need to be active so their minds and bodies grow and develop correctly. Physical activities are controlled by the vestibular system. It’s located in the middle and inner ear. If it’s not working correctly, kids may feel the world is out of balance. It can affect their learning and behavior. So it’s good to know how kids’ hearing can impact their academics and activities.

Did you know? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.3 out of 1,000 kids age 8 have hearing loss in both ears of 40 decibels or more. And nearly 15% of children ages 6 to 19 have hearing loss of at least 16 decibels in one or both ears. Even hearing loss in only one ear can impact a child’s ability to focus and learn in school. Research shows that 25% to 35% of kids with hearing loss in both ears are at risk of failing a grade level in school.

Impacts physical growth and development

As babies develop during pregnancy, their vestibular is the first sensory system to form. It’s located deep inside the ear. The vestibular system’s primary job is to organize and respond to information. So if the vestibular does not develop correctly, the child’s eyes and ears may not collect and process information accurately.

Scientists report that there are several factors that can cause the vestibular system not to work correctly and affect kids’ hearing. Here are five reasons why kids can have problems with their vestibular system:

  1. born prematurely
  2. exposed to extreme movements or sounds during pregnancy
  3. kept in intensive care for a duration after birth
  4. minimal holding or not moved much after birth
  5. severe or repeated ear infections

Affects balance and coordination

In addition to hearing, the vestibular system can affect kids’ body control and movement. It impacts their posture, balance and coordination. It hampers their attention span and space awareness. And it inhibits their ability to jump, crawl, climb, roll and walk.

Researchers say there are several common symptoms of vestibular processing problems. Here’s a list of seven signs parents should watch for:

  1. lack of focus and random eye movement
  2. inability to read, write in cursive or solve basic math problems
  3. constant movement, such as bouncing, fidgeting, rocking
  4. impulsive or unsafe behaviors
  5. fear of being in a confined space or sudden movements, such as riding an elevator
  6. motion sickness, feeling nauseous or dizzy
  7. balance problems as evidenced by crashing into things, falling without reason, difficulty walking on uneven surfaces or problems climbing stairs

Explore treatment options

Parents should protect their kids’ hearing by watching for signs of poor vestibular processing. If noticing symptoms, parents should immediately contact their doctor. Treatment options could include encouraging kids to spend more time playing outside and limiting screen time. Other options involve engaging kids in thinking activities or prescribing medications to manage symptoms.

Read these blogs to learn more about kids’ hearing:
5 Things to Know About Kids’ and Hearing Loss
Newborn Hearing Tests
Preventing and Treating Ear Infections

Healthy Hearing
Reading Rockets
Vestibular Disorders Association
NIH News in Health
Kids Health