Hearing, speech, and language screenings are the brief, initial testings done with children to determine if further evaluation is needed. Any disorders with hearing, speech, or language can affect relationships with peers, teachers, and parents. In addition, poor communication can lead to difficulties with learning and in other areas.
Who Provides These Screenings
Generally, a trained audiologist leads hearing screening efforts. The actual tests can be performed by the audiologist, a school nurse, a speech pathologist, or any other properly trained volunteer. An audiologist has a doctoral degree and required certifications.
Speech and language screenings can be performed by a speech pathologist. These professionals have a Master’s degree and certification from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and their state.
Who Needs to Be Screened?
Routine hearing screenings of children from infancy through the school age years will help identify children in need of services. Specifically, the ASHA recommends these groups should be targeted:
- Those at high risk of delayed-onset hearing loss
- Those that have parental, caregiver, or teacher concern
- Those being given a speech-language evaluation
- Those entering school, in grades K-3, 7, and 11.
- Others as mandated by state
Speech and language screenings are less frequently done. Those at high risk such as premature babies or children with other disabilities should be considered for speech and language screenings. In addition, whenever parents or teachers have concerns about the development of speech or language skills, a screening is often the first place to start.
What Can Be Learned From Screenings
All screenings can determine if further testing needs to be administered. Hearing screenings are often indicative of hearing loss but are not always accurate.
Speech and language screenings can give information about a child’s abilities in these areas:
- Receptive language
- Expressive language
- Articulation and phonology
- Pragmatic or social skills
How Are Screenings Administered?
Typical hearing screenings make use of two tests. First, inspection with an otoscope allows the tester to see any physical barriers to hearing such as foreign bodies, drainage, impacted cerumen, infection and more. In addition, a pure-tone hearing test is administered where a child has to identify the tones he hears.
Speech and language screenings make use of standardized tools to assess students. Speech pathologists observe and listen to children as they look at pictures, books, and play with toys to determine if there is reason to believe further testing may be beneficial.
Hearing, speech, and language disorders can be a huge barrier to communication. When problems are caught and treatment has begun at an early age, prognosis is much more positive. Screenings help to assure that all children get an equal chance at diagnosis and therapy at the earliest ages.