This study aimed to investigate hearing and auditory processing ability in primary school children with learning difficulties (LD).
A nonrandomized, cross-sectional single measure research design was used. A total of 486 children, aged 7.7 to 10.8 years and attending years 3 and 4 in six primary schools, were classified as having an LD (n = 67) or being typically developing (TD, n = 419). This classification was based on a Learning Score generated from their school report results and National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy scores. All children attempted a conventional hearing assessment (CHA) involving pure-tone audiometry, tympanometry, acoustic reflexes (AR), and otoacoustic emissions (OAEs). Children returning pure-tone audiometry results within normal limits also attempted an auditory processing assessment (APA) including dichotic digits (DD) and low-pass filtered speech (LPFS) tests.
In children with LD, 21/67 (31.4%) failed the CHA, 20/58 (34.5%) failed the APA, and 32/58 (55.2%) failed the overall hearing assessment (OHA) if they failed either or both CHA and APA. In comparison, in TD children, 55/413 (13.3%) failed the CHA, 52/314 (16.6%) failed the APA, and 86/313 (27.5%) failed the OHA. Proportionally, children with LD were 2.4 times more likely than TD children to fail the CHA, 2.1 times more likely to fail the APA, and 2.0 times more likely to fail the OHA. In children who had completed the OHA, multiple linear regressions showed average AR thresholds, DD scores, and LPFS scores explained 13 to 18% of the variance in the Learning Score.
The potential for hearing impairment should be investigated in children with LD. These investigations should begin with CHA, and for children returning normal-hearing thresholds, should continue with measures of AR, DD, and LPFS, to ensure these children receive the appropriate auditory support needed to enhance their learning.
Hearing Research Unit for Children, Division of Audiology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: All authors listed in this article contributed equally to this work. R.C., J.K., and W.J.W. designed the study. R.C. collected data with the patients. All authors discussed the results and implications and commented on the article at all stages.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Address for correspondence: Seong Min Robyn Choi, Hearing Research Unit for Children, Discipline of Audiology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia. E-mail: email@example.com.
Received January 4, 2018; accepted July 15, 2018.