Audiologists say undiagnosed ear issues may contribute to children lacking focus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With the new school year starting in the next few days, specialists are suggesting parents pay close attention to their children's response and behavior to learning.

Pediatric Audiologists at the Midwest Ear Institute said many young children are suffering from undiagnosed ear issues that contribute to them being labeled 'unfocused'.

"I think it’s more common than it should be. I think a lot of times kids get told that maybe they’re not paying attention or maybe they just have an ear infection. It gets kind of brushed off and then before parents know it, it’s just going on and on and on," Dr. Jamie Governal, a pediatric audiologist at Midwest Ear Institute, said.

Sha Neisha Williams' son, Braylen, 7, spent the first few years of his life suffering from an ear issue missed by his doctor.

"He was about 2 when we noticed he wasn’t speaking and wasn’t hearing everything we were saying to him. So we had to elevate our voices a bit in order for him to hear something," Williams said.

Williams said it took her son getting new hearing aids for him to grow into the fun and intelligent kid he is today. She said the progress he has made in the short amount of time has been astonishing.

"He didn’t say any words besides ‘mama’ and that was the only word. I think that’s a word that kids pick up in general but other than that, that was it." Williams said, "He was able to pick language up right away and ever since then he’s been improving upon his language and his growth is exponential right now."

Dr. Governal suggests parents should take their child to see a specialist if they show signs of struggling to pay attention.

"I think if you ever hear the words ‘your child just doesn’t seem to be listening’ a hearing test should be somewhere in the evaluation for figuring out what’s going on." Dr. Governal said, "Attention is definitely one of them but things like asking for TV or radio to be louder than the parent things is needed, saying what and huh a lot, complaining that their ears feel stuffy or sound funny, complaining that they just can’t hear their teachers, anything like that you want to take seriously before you just attribute it to them being a five-year old who is not listening."

And with proper treatment, Dr. Governal said parents can expect to see a swift change in their child's behavior and learning capability.

"When a child’s hearing loss is addressed, whether it’s temporary hearing loss from fluid in their ears or permanent hearing loss that needs something like a hearing aid, the response from the child, the change is pretty immediate. Just giving them full access to hearing and access to their world they immediately change. They are more engaged, they can hear their teachers, attention becomes less of a concern and I hear that from parents all the time that they are just a different child," she said.

A difference Sha Neisha said has changed their family's life forever.

"It was the best decision we’ve ever made. Just from the first time when they first turned on his new ears, he cried and it was exciting but frightening at the same time but it was so wonderful to finally see that he could actually hear us," she said.

If you'd like to find out more of the signs of ear issues to look for in your children, follow this link.

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