Childhood hearing screenings – Why are they important and how can AEA audiologists help?

Hearing screening and testing check equipment in a sound-proof testing booth.

Early identification of hearing loss is essential to minimizing its negative effects on a child’s language, communication, and social skill development. Due to the serious consequences of undetected hearing loss, Iowa has mandated newborn hearing screening (Iowa Code section 135.131). However, not all hearing losses are present at birth, so we cannot rely on statewide newborn hearing screening alone to identify hearing loss for all individuals. Ear infection and middle ear concerns are the most common causes of hearing loss in children. There are, however, many different causes of hearing loss, such as genetic causes, noise exposure, infectious diseases, accidents, etc., that can occur at any time during a child’s education and beyond. Even temporary causes of hearing loss, like ear infection, can affect children’s ability to hear and access sounds. Unfortunately, this can have a detrimental effect on speech and language development.

Hearing loss is often considered an invisible disability. It is not always apparent that a child is having difficulty hearing. Infants or young children cannot tell us they have hearing loss, and one generally cannot see a hearing loss by looking at an individual. Unidentified or poorly managed hearing loss can mirror poor attention in class, lack of motivation, or decreased classroom participation. Even a mild hearing loss can have a significant impact on a child’s education.

Over half of instructional activities in today’s classrooms involve listening. Today’s classrooms are dynamic learning environments that rely primarily on listening. Teachers depend on good hearing to allow their learners to adequately access the curriculum. Hearing also has strong ties to the development of early literacy and learning of phonemic skills.

Iowa’s Area Education Agency (AEA) system provides services to identify and address hearing loss in a systematic and cost-effective way for Iowa’s learners. Iowa’s AEAs provide regular hearing screenings at area preschools and school buildings. These hearing screenings are crucial to identifying hearing loss as early as possible in order to reduce the potential negative impact on a child’s development and education. Once hearing loss is identified, it doesn’t stop there! AEA audiologists work with educational teams to provide accommodations, strategies, and services to allow learners to meet their potential.

Dr. Sara Harnack

If you have a question about your child’s hearing at any age, please call your local AEA office to discuss the need for a hearing screening. AEA audiologists have advanced degrees, are licensed by the State of Iowa, and specialize in providing age-appropriate hearing testing and educational services for your child from birth through the school years. We are happy to help!

Dr. Sara Harnack is an educational audiologist with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (CRAEA), based in Cedar Falls. She can be reached at Learn more about Central Rivers Area Education Agency at