School hearing tests may not identify problems among adolescents

University Park, PA – School hearing tests may not capture high-frequency hearing loss among adolescents, suggests a new study from the Penn State College of Medicine.

In a study of 282 11th-graders, researchers compared the results of a school hearing test to a special hearing test designed to detect high-frequency hearing loss. Five students failed the school test and 85 failed the special test. An audiologist then tested 48 students, and nine were found to have hearing loss.

As with many states, Pennsylvania’s school testing focuses on low-frequency hearing loss. That type of hearing loss is more common among young children who suffer from ear infections or colds, but adolescents are more likely to lose hearing at the high-frequency levels from exposure to loud noise, according to a Penn State press release.

Researchers said the study results suggest school tests are inadequate to detect hearing loss among adolescents, and schools should consider using tests designed to identify noise-related high-frequency hearing loss.

The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Medical Screening.