Who should be screened and why?
Early childhood development can be negatively affected by poor eyesight or poor hearing. Oftentimes, vision and hearing problems are not easily detected by casual observation. Young children often do not complain about not being able to see or hear, because they do not know they should be seeing or hearing any other way. Early detection of a potential problem is crucial and that is why a thorough screening is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Screenings help detect if a potential vision or hearing issue exists, however, it does not take the place of a complete eye and ear exam and parents/guardians are encouraged to follow the required periodic wellness visits for their child.
How is vision and hearing screening done?
Using fun and easy games specifically designed for preschool children, screeners from the Sight & Hearing Association will complete the following five tests:
- Visual inspection of the eyes and ears (12 mos., toddlers and preschoolers): Checks eyes and ears for healthy appearance
- Visual acuity or clearness of vision (preschoolers): Using age appropriate eye charts and matching games we measure how well each eye sees
- Fixate and Follow (12 mos. and toddlers): Using an engaging toy to see if the child can fixate on and follow a moving toy.
- Cross-cover and Hirschberg light dot test (all ages): Verifies that the eyes are straight and work together
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) or Pure Tone Audiometry (OAE all ages, pure tone for preschoolers): Clinic quality equipment is used to measure how well your child receives sounds most important for speech development and communication skills.
- Tympanometry (preschoolers): Clinic quality equipment measures how the eardrum moves. It checks for problems such as fluid behind the eardrum.
Who does the screening?
Founded in 1939, the Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) is a nonprofit organization that conducts vision and hearing screenings throughout Minnesota. Specially trained vision and hearing health professionals, screen over 10,000 children each year. Over 1.5 million children have been screened onsite at their school settings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the warning signs to look for in my child regarding vision? Your child is squinting to see, leans forward to be close to objects, clumsy when reaching, complains of eye aches or pains or says their vision is blurred. Often there are no warning signs, especially in conditions such as amblyopia. Amblyopia, otherwise known as “lazy eye,” is a condition where one eye develops good vision while the other does not. A related condition is strabismus, which is a misaligned or turned eye.
What are some of the warning signs regarding hearing? Your child tilts his/her head to one side when someone is speaking, favors one ear, asks you to repeat what you have said or asks “what?” or ‘huh” often, talks louder or complains of ear aches and pains.
Will any hearing results be affected if my child has tubes? Yes. The tympanometer will show abnormal results for that test only. Tubes do not affect the pure tone audiometer or OAE hearing test.
If my child needs glasses, will they weaken the eyes? No. This is a common myth. Glasses will not change the eyes to make them weaker. Eyesight may change as the eyes continue to develop, but it is not a result of the current prescription.
What is the next step if my child does not pass the screening? If your child does not pass, make an appointment with your health care professional, who can refer you to a specialist, if necessary. If your child did not pass the hearing test, it could mean a potential hearing loss, an ear infection, wax build-up or something in the ear canal. If your child did not pass the vision test, it could mean an eye condition requiring follow-up care, eyeglasses, or even allergies.
What sort of eye and ear specialists are there for my son or daughter? Otolaryngologists (ENTs), pediatric otolaryngologists and audiologists specialize in hearing issues. Ophthalmologists, pediatric ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians specialize in vision issues.