Screening for Minimal Hearing Loss in Children
The purpose of this study was (a) to compare the hearing screening outcomes obtained with the Colorado school-based hearing screening (which mandates screening at 20 dB HL at 1000, 2000, 4000 Hz in both ears and conducted with supra-aural headphones) with screening outcomes obtained with the experimental Wireless-Automated Hearing-Test System (WAHTS) technology with high-attenuation headphones and (b) to determine the feasibility of utilizing the WAHTS to screen for hearing loss at additional test frequencies (500 and 6000 Hz) and at a lower intensity (15 dB HL) in order to explore the feasibility of screening for minimal hearing losses in children through routine school hearing screenings. The participants included 112 children from 4 school sites. Participants’ ages ranged from 8 to 11 years with a mean age of 9.2 (SD ± 1.1) years old. Ambient noise level measurements were taken at each screening site and recorded ambient noise levels were low enough to permit screening when referencing ANSI/ASA S3.1-1999 (R2018a) when adjusted for both the screening level and headphone type. Study outcomes demonstrate that it was feasible to screen at additional frequencies that are not routinely screened in Colorado schools (500 and 6000 Hz) and to screen at a lower intensity (15 dB HL) with the WAHTS. Referral status of both ears identified that fewer children necessitated a referral when screened with the WAHTS compared to when screened with the traditional supra-aural headphones (p = .000) when performed at the same test frequencies (1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz). The WAHTS may be useful in terms of automating the hearing screening process as
well as for the identification of minimal hearing losses in school-aged children. The high attenuation of the WAHTS may provide for identification of minimal hearing losses in students and provide an opportunity to minimize the negative consequences of undetected minimal hearing losses in children, such as increased fatigue, behavioral problems, delayed overall development, poor communication, and poor academic performance (Pakulski & Kaderavek, 2002).