ADHD or Hearing Loss: How to Tell the Difference

It can be difficult to tell between ADHD and hearing loss in children, but a hearing test can help.
ADHD can be a common diagnosis for children, but undiagnosed hearing loss could be the reason for developmental delays.

If you’ve noticed that your child has difficulty paying attention in the classroom, or that they can’t seem to focus on class assignments, it might be a good idea to find out if they have ADHD or hearing loss. That’s because ADHD, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and hearing loss can present with similar symptoms. Unfortunately, both conditions can have a significant impact on your child’s overall development and progress in school.

What is ADHD?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions of childhood. Children with ADHD often exhibit a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to:

● Impulsive behaviors
● A short attention span
● Difficulty focusing on tasks
● Excessive squirming, fidgeting, or overall activity
● Difficulty taking turns or interacting appropriately with peers

Unfortunately, diagnosis of ADHD can be difficult and somewhat subjective in nature. That’s because there are no specific tests that can be done to determine the presence or absence of the disorder. Instead, healthcare professionals must rely on observations of a child’s behavior and psychological symptoms in order to make a diagnosis.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a term that is commonly used to describe a condition in which someone has hearing levels that are below normal thresholds, either in one ear or both. The National Institutes of Health further breaks down hearing loss by severity:

Mild: hearing loss of 20-40 decibels
Moderate: hearing loss of 41-60 decibels
Severe: hearing loss of 61-80 decibels
Profound: hearing loss of more than 81 decibels

Children with hearing loss often exhibit the following symptoms:

● Inappropriate behaviors such as acting out or not responding
● Reduced attention span
● Difficulty with social interactions
● Impaired academic performance
● Speech and language delays

Fortunately, there IS a way to diagnose and quantify hearing loss definitively. The most common method is through a newborn hearing screening for infants or a hearing test for older children.

How to tell if your child has ADHD or hearing loss

You may have noticed some similarities between the ADHD and hearing loss symptoms we just mentioned. Since these two conditions often present similarly, it can be challenging for parents, caregivers, or educational staff to determine the exact reason for a child’s behaviors or poor academic performance.

Unfortunately, a misdiagnosis of ADHD when the problem is actually hearing loss can lead to unnecessary prescription of medication for treatment. An inaccurate diagnosis also does little to help with a child’s impaired performance at school. And, failure to recognize hearing loss and treat it appropriately can lead to speech and language delays.

So, what is the best way to tell if your child has ADHD or hearing loss? First, it’s essential to realize that they could actually have both. And, as the parent, there’s no need for you to figure it all out on your own. Be sure to mention your concerns to your child’s pediatrician. He or she can then refer you to the appropriate medical professional.

To determine whether your child has ADHD or hearing loss, a hearing test is often performed first. This, along with a thorough audiologic evaluation, can rule out or confirm the presence of hearing loss. Then, your child may be referred to a psychologist for further evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment if there is still a concern about Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Professional hearing loss treatment for children in Mesa or Scottsdale

At Advanced Hearing Group, we see people of all ages with hearing loss, including babies and children. Some parents seek the help of our Mesa or Scottsdale audiologists after their baby has failed a newborn hearing screening. Others schedule a hearing test for their school-aged children after seeing them have difficulties in the classroom.

If you suspect your child has ADHD or hearing loss, it’s important to seek professional help right away. The sooner an accurate diagnosis can be made, the sooner an effective treatment plan can be created and implemented. Then, your child can be well on their way to healthy development and a positive educational experience at school.

If you live in or near Mesa or Scottsdale, Arizona, Advanced Hearing Group IS the hearing health clinic near you. Schedule an appointment with our audiologists today and we can help your child get on the road to better hearing.

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