How vision, hearing impairments affect school success

Tammy McIntyre

I can vividly recall my sophomore year of high school. I took an advanced biology course that I felt I was sure to ace. I began having issues with my vision and I had no idea that I was copying problems from the blackboard and putting decimals where there were none.

My teacher suggested that I have my eyes examined. Sure enough, I was slightly near-sighted and seeing double. How can parents ensure that vision and hearing impairments are caught early? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Screening for some vision problems for your child should occur at around 11 or 12 years of age.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s vision or hearing at any time, take your child for an assessment.
  • If your child does have a hearing or vision problem, finding it as early as possible is good for their learning and development.
(MGN Online)

If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, it’s important that you visit your family doctor. Your doctor may refer your child for an assessment by a hearing specialist (audiologist).

For older children, vision may be checked in some schools by a vision-hearing technician. To ensure that these checks are done, schedule vision and hearing exams with your pediatrician or primary care physician annually.

If your child has difficulty seeing things clearly, they may also have trouble seeing decimals and/or signs. Understanding numbers and understanding what they mean as well as being able to see numbers and quantities are critical to success in math and can be impacted if a child has vision problems.

Even though your child may do well in most subjects, vision problems affect reading in several ways. A serious vision problem could reduce their ability to know what they are looking at and impact their ability to remember numbers and letters. Young readers with vision problems may struggle to keep up with peers as they acquire this skill.

If your child is learning to read and has blurry or double vision, he or she will not be able to read for long periods of time. A common sign of vision problems is a headache near the eye area or the sensation of tired or strained muscles in this area.

Impact of hearing on academic success

Your child may be inattentive, poorly behaved in class, and getting bad grades. Your first thought might be that your child is trying to get attention or has a learning disability. But you also might want to consider the possibility that the child has hearing loss. Hearing loss, whether mild or severe, can have a negative effect on academic performance and a child’s ability to speak properly.

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), children who have mild to moderate hearing loss with no intervention services are very likely to fall behind their peers by one to four grade levels. Those who do not receive intervention usually do not progress beyond the third-grade level in math, reading and comprehension of language.

For example, if a teacher turns his back to the students while teaching, his voice will be directed toward the blackboard, causing a student with hearing loss to miss part of the lesson. Verbal changes to homework assignments or a teacher who talks too rapidly can hinder a child’s ability to understand what is being said if their hearing is impaired.

As your child grows, signs of a hearing loss may include:

  • constant irritability
  • asks “what?” often
  • difficulty learning
  • seems to require higher TV volume than others in the home
  • answers inappropriately to simple questions
  • failure to respond to his or her name or gets easily frustrated when there’s a lot of background noise
  • limited or no speech

To be proactive, monitor changes in these signs regularly and take immediate action if one or more of these symptoms of hearing loss persist.


Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to