Academic, behavioural and quality of life outcomes of children with slight to mild hearing loss: A population-based study

Ms Jing Wang1,2, Dr Jon Quach1,2, Dr Valerie Sung1,2,3, Dr Peter Carew1,4, A/Prof Ben Edwards5, A/Prof Lisa Gold6, Prof Melissa Wake7

1Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia,

2University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics, Melbourne, Australia,

3Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia,

4University of Melbourne Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, Melbourne, Australia,

5Australian National University, , Australia,

6School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia,

7Department of Paediatrics & The Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland, Grafton, Auckland, New Zealand


Purpose of presentation

To describe the associations between slight-mild hearing loss and academic, behavioural and quality of life outcomes in 11-12 year-old Australian children at a population level.

Nature and scope of topic

The presentation outlines the prevalence of slight-mild hearing loss in Australian school-aged children, using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children’s ‘Checkpoint’ study. Identification of slight-mild hearing loss in school-aged children may be important. This may have implications on policy regarding screening for hearing loss in school-aged children.

Issue or problem under consideration

Understanding the population-level impact of slight-mild hearing loss in children is a requisite for evidence-based hearing policy. While universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) programs are now widely implemented with the goal of early treatment of moderate to profound hearing loss (>40 dB HL), which has major negative impacts on child outcomes (e.g. speech and language, academic performance, social interaction and isolation, behaviour and health-related quality of life (HRQL)) very few studies have focused on the population-level outcomes associated with slight-mild hearing loss.

Outcome or conclusion reached

Continuous hearing thresholds and slight-mild hearing loss (16 to 40 decibels hearing loss (dB HL)) showed small associations with outcomes. Of 1483 children (mean age 11.5 years), 9.2% and 13.1% had slight-mild bilateral and unilateral hearing loss, respectively. One standard deviation (SD) increment in the worse-ear threshold (6.8 dB HL) was associated with poorer academic outcomes, parent-reported behaviour, and HRQL (effect sizes 0.07 to 0.15 SDs). Similar associations were evident for better-ear threshold with language, parent-reported internalizing behavior and HRQL scores (effect sizes 0.07 to 0.15 SDs). Compared to normally hearing children, children with bilateral slight-mild losses displayed 0.2-0.3 SD lower scores in sentence repetition, teacher-reported learning and physical HRQL, but not in other outcomes. Similar but attenuated patterns were seen in unilateral slight-mild losses.


Jing is a PhD candidate at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Her thesis

‘Prevalence, risk factors and outcomes of hearing loss in Australian children and adults: the Growing Up in Australia’s Child Health CheckPoint Study’ reframes hearing loss as a lifecourse problem with childhood origins. Jing collected hearing data from ~1500 child-parent dyads at child age 11-12 years. Her PhD describes the current prevalence of hearing loss in children and mid-life adults, the associations of obesity, inflammation and telomere length with hearing loss, and the academic, behavioural and quality of life outcomes of slight-mild hearing loss in Australian children.