Early identification of hearing loss is important for all children to minimise the impact upon their speech, language and social development. Children with visual impairment have additional reliance upon their hearing as their ‘distance sense’ allowing them to use auditory cues for mobilisation and orientation in their environment and awareness of objects that are at beyond their reach (Elisa et al., 2002). The impact of dual-sensory loss upon a child’s development is likely to be greater than the sum of deafness and blindness yet is often under appreciated by professionals (Nikolopoulos et al., 2006). Visually impaired children are likely to be at higher risk of hearing loss as factors causing or associated with vision impairment may also affect hearing. Genetic causes or environmental factors, such as infection, low birth weight or hypoxia can affect both vision and hearing (Nikolopoulos et al., 2006). It may be harder for parents and teachers to detect hearing loss in visually impaired children as many (77%) have complex needs (Rahi and Cable, 2003), therefore without formal testing hearing loss may remain undiagnosed.
This research project approaches hearing impairment in visually impaired children from three perspectives:
- A parental survey of awareness of hearing impairment amongst visually impaired children.
- An investigation of prevalence and aetiology of hearing loss amongst visually impaired children within a specialist school population.
- Semi-structured interviews with teachers of visually impaired children to explore their knowledge of hearing loss, their ability to recognise hearing loss indicators and their understanding of the impact of dual-sensory loss upon development.
This research aims to inform guidance for the audiological monitoring of visually impaired children throughout childhood.
Poster presentation at British Academy of Audiology conference 2019 – The Prevalence of Hearing Impairment in Children with Visual Impairment: A Systematic Review.