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Sydney, Dec 2 (IANS) Ear health experts from Australia's Macquarie University have called for better hearing checks in Australian children, following their report which revealed that hearing problems in disadvantaged children are often left undetected.
The report, published in the Public Health Research and Practice journal on Thursday, observed 2,489 children with a median age of 11 for over three years from low socio-economic families in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).
It found that over 40 per cent failed to pass a hearing screening assessment. One in 10 children had hearing loss, and three in 10 presented middle ear dysfunction.
Cath McMahon, professor of audiology at Macquarie University and lead author on the study, told Xinhua that early detection was key to providing children with the support they need and preventing the worsening of hearing conditions.
'What is key is to ensure that there's a strong pathway, so that you do not just detect a problem, but you connect the child to timely and effective care.'
She highlighted the fact that even low levels of hearing loss, that may go unnoticed by parents and teachers, could have a variety of impacts on children's learning as well as their social and neurological development, Xinhua news agency reported.
'You need good hearing to develop good listening skills ... Your hearing also enables you to filter out what you need to know, or what you want to hear relative to other things, (such as) background noise,' said McMahon.
She said without early detection, hearing problems can often be misunderstood as behavioural or attention problems.
'The child is then reprimanded rather than being supported... They might be put to the back of the class making it even more challenging for them to hear.'
With early detection children could instead be given the support they need.
'They can come to the front of the class, and we can ensure that they're watching the teacher's face (and getting) good visual cues. This can go a long way to ensuring that the child is engaged and doesn't miss out on really fundamental parts of their learning.'
McMahon called for the 'embedding' of hearing checks into children's standardized health checks in Australia.
'Even when there's accessibility into health care, often ear and hearing checks are not embedded within health pathways.'
She said as well as economically disadvantaged children, further action and funding would be particularly important for Australia's culturally and linguistically marginalised communities.
'We need to look at health literacy, whether it's for priority populations, like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, or other cultural and linguistic minority populations.'
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