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Screening children from families at social risk with the LittlEARS® (MED-EL) auditory questionnaire - is
the development of early listening skills affected?
Schäfer K. , Coninx F.
University of Cologne, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Rehabilitation and Special Education, Cologne, Germany, 2IfAP, Institute
for Audiopaedagogics, Solingen, Germany
Objective: Socioeconomic status (SES) has often been discussed to influence health outcome in people. The
objective of this study was to assess early listening skills in children from families with a low SES by using the
LittlEARS® auditory questionnaire (LEAQ) as a hearing screening tool. The aim was to analyze the results of the
LEAQ in this special group by comparing them with the average population.
Methods: Participants with low SES were recruited from the youth welfare service of the city of Cologne,
Germany. 67 families with children aged 4-32 months took part in the study. To gain information about the
hearing status of the children, the LittlEARS® auditory questionnaire (LEAQ) was applied. If a child failed in the
initial screening with LEAQ, parents were encouraged to visit their paediatrician or paediatric audiologist for
further testing. The results of LEAQ of the children from families with low SES were compared with the results of
a German field study from 2008-2010, where 5320 randomly chosen participants not leaning towards any
specific SES were screened with LEAQ at a regular paediatrician check-up visit.
Results: Within the group of 67 participants nine children failed in the initial screening with LEAQ which is about
four times more than expected, compared with the results of the average population. Although further testing
resulted in none of the children being actually affected by a permanent hearing loss, an increased medical
attention to such children might still prove useful. In the main study it was found that children with a conspicuous
LEAQ-screening report not only had an enhanced risk to be affected by a permanent hearing loss, but also had
higher likelihood of developing other speech or developmental dysfunctions later. LEAQ seems to be not only
sensitive to hearing disorders but also to other developmental delays that are associated with early hearing and
communication deficits.
Furthermore from the nine children of the 67 participants with low SES who failed the screening, two children
had medical indispositions that referred to an enhanced risk to develop a hearing loss (meningitis, downsyndrome). These two children were currently affected by chronic otitis media. As some children had emergent
risk factors, parents were given more information about early hearing and communication development and were
asked to pay close attention to the further development of their children.
Conclusions: It could be shown that children from families with low SES have a considerably higher probability
to fail the LEAQ-screening and therefore might be more affected to develop a temporary or permanent hearing
loss or other dysfunctions in their further development. Listening and early communication skills should be
monitored closely in that group to prevent late diagnosis.