Posted by: Francis Koster Published: December 12, 2023

Mass Hearing Surveys: A Cheap Outside-The-Classroom Solution That Will Boost Student Learning (November 17, 2023)

North Carolina has around a quarter of a million students with unrecognized and untreated hearing loss that hinders learning [i], [ii].

Apart from rare instances required by North Carolina regulations, schools rarely screen grade 2-12 students' hearing due to the expense and inconvenience. This results in poor learning for many students, which lowers individual schools' statewide rankings and reflects poorly on educational leadership.

Did you know you can conduct mass surveys of children's hearing loss using computer games for free?

One impressive effort was developed by doctors and computer technicians associated with Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital. You can find more information in this image copied from - there is also an instructional video available [iii]. The advances in technology make the accuracy rate of the survey very close to that of professional screenings, minimizing time and money wasted.

Other countries are also using this tool. Australia, for example, has a program called SoundScouts, utilized in schools for children aged 4+. Through three game-based activities, children use colorful symbols on a touch screen to indicate their ability to hear a tone, word, or phrase. After a few minutes of play, an immediate report is generated. The participating student can also receive a reward sticker. [iv]


Identifying students with hearing difficulties is one thing, but determining the cause and implementing appropriate measures is another. Hearing difficulty is not a one-size-fits-all issue. For example, some people lose the ability to hear female voice tones but can still hear lower male tones. Unless detected, this can greatly impact students with a female teacher. Many other biological causes of hearing loss exist, including some that are hereditary. The role of the survey is to identify children who need referral to a professional to address these issues.

These computer games enable you to survey all your students, identifying members of the student population whose learning is impacted by hearing issues and should be referred by a trained clinical technician for screening.

It is important to recognize that a child’s hearing is not a stable thing – it can start to break down at any age.  As a result, North Carolina law (which only requires “screening” the first year a child enrolls in a school) ignores all kids who may have developed hearing issues between the first year of enrollment and the completion of the 12th grade.  Ignoring that portion of the maturing student body that is a developing hearing loss over 12 years is a huge tragedy because children with  a mild to moderate hearing loss earn grades one to four grades lower, on average, than their peers with normal hearing.[v]

And remember that I told you that over half of all Americans over 55 years of age now declare themselves "retired" – 59 million people.  And of those, 48%  (28 million people) have at least a Bachelor’s degree.  You can tap into this talent pool to run the mass screening program.

By the way – to continue your learning in this area, there are many digital hearing tests that adults can use for free.   As I was researching for this newsletter, I tripped over a summary done by the National Council of Aging that reviewed a number of adult oriented on-line hearing tests. If you want try out this kind of tool, check out the list below. To access this list, test the devices for free, CLICK HERE


Can you hear your kids when they say "I love you"?

A quarter of a million of North Carolina students may not be able to hear their parents say it.

Let's work together to fix this mess.







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Francis P. Koster Ed.D.

Proven local solutions to national problems.


Francis P. Koster, Ed. D.

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