Audiologists perceptions and experiences of managing young children with mild hearing loss and their families: A qualitative study

A/Prof. Nerina Scarinci1, Ms Chermaine Choik1, Ms Patricia Van Buynder2, Dr Kristen Tulloch1, Dr Valerie Sung3, Dr Teresa Ching2

 1School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University Of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia,

 2National Acoustic Laboratories, Sydney, Australia,

3Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia


Background: Though research in permanent childhood hearing loss has typically centred around more severe hearing losses, children experience a range of degrees of hearing loss, including mild hearing loss. Although variable, children with mild hearing loss may experience more difficulties than typically-developing children in domains such as energy levels, stress, and self-esteem (Bess et al., 1998), all of which may hinder a child’s engagement with the academic environment, impact interpersonal relationships, and result in emotional and behavioural difficulties (Daud et al., 2010; Winiger et al., 2016). Despite these potential negative impacts of mild hearing loss, there is currently limited research describing how children with mild hearing loss are best managed in early intervention.

Aim: The purpose of this presentation is to describe the results of a qualitative study exploring audiologists’ experiences managing clinical decision making for children with mild hearing loss.

Method: In this qualitative descriptive study (Sandelowski, 2000), individual in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 23 rehabilitation and diagnostic audiologists.

Results: Through the experiences and amassed clinical expertise of these audiologists, thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) revealed three distinct but highly interconnected themes emerging from participants’ accounts of managing mild hearing loss including: (i) assessment and management are tricky, (ii) managing families’ reactions, and (iii) clinicians feel torn between courses of action. These themes reflect the varied impacts of mild hearing loss and lack of evidence regarding best practice for this population, and emphasis the audiologists’ perceptions of the stresses and anxieties expressed by families in response to a diagnosis of mild hearing loss.

Conclusion: The results of this study highlighted audiologists’ uncertainty in managing children with mild hearing loss and provide important insights into management considerations. The importance of considering family outcomes and the need for more definitive recommendations for this population are emphasised.


Nerina is an Associate Professor and Head of Speech Pathology in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The University of Queensland. She is a speech pathologist and has a PhD.