Children who do not receive early intervention cost schools an additional $420,000 and face overall lifetime costs of $1 million in special education, lost wages, and health complications, according to a 1995 study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. The U.S. Department of Education indicates that, in 2002 alone, over 70,000 students, ages 6-21, received special education services, due to their hearing loss.
In its national survey of 53,000 households, the Better Hearing Institute determined there are 1.4 million children with hearing loss in America (1.7% prevalence) as identified by their parents; yet only 12% use hearing aids. However, objective studies of children published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that the prevalence of hearing loss may be as high as 15% with 12.6% of children showing early signs of noise induced hearing loss.
A follow-up study with parents of children with hearing loss published by the Better Hearing Institute in 2007 was titled “Are 1 million dependents in America with hearing loss being left behind?”. Untreated hearing loss among young people leads to social, emotional, behavioral, and learning difficulties, according to the study. Three out of four parents indicated their children experienced “minor” to “serious” problems due to their hearing loss. The most serious problems experienced were:
- Social skills (52%)
- Language/speech development (51%)
- Grades in school (50%)
- Emotional health (42%)
- Relationships with peers (38%)
- Self-esteem (37%)
- Relationships with family (36%)
Parents expressed a number of reasons why they chose not to provide hearing devices for their children with hearing loss. One out of five (22%) parents said they were unable to afford hearing devices.
“Children need to be able to hear, not just in the classroom, but also because hearing affects language competence, cognitive development, social and emotional well-being, and academic achievement,” said Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., executive director of BHI. “Children who cannot hear well — that is, when their hearing loss is untreated or under-treated — could face a life of underperformance and broken dreams.”
The scientific literature is clear that untreated hearing loss affects nearly all dimensions of the human experience. And the pediatric literature demonstrates that even children with “minimal” hearing loss are at risk academically compared to their normal hearing peers.