A report published by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) during Deafness Awareness Week 2015 highlights the particular difficulties faced by children with mild to moderate deafness.

Although most children with partial deafness attend mainstream schools, there is concern that many partially deaf children are falling behind their peers. In particular, the NDCS report reveals that children with mild hearing loss may miss between a quarter and half of what their teachers say. This rises to over 50% in children with moderate hearing loss. In turn, this results in deaf children lagging behind their peers in relation to their spoken language as well as reading, writing and spelling.

Specific problems identified in the report included poor acoustics in classrooms, background noise, and a lack of understanding by teaching staff. When children fall behind at an early stage, this follows through into their later education, with it being noted that more than half of children with limited hearing fail to achieve five good GCSEs.

The benefits of raising teacher awareness of the problem and providing one-to-one classroom support to affected children have been highlighted by the NDCS.

Clearly the right intervention, whether it be via medical treatment such as the insertion of cochlear implants in children with significant hearing loss, or extra support at school for all children with hearing loss, depends upon an accurate diagnosis of a child’s deafness being made in the first place.

The NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme seeks to identify moderate to profound deafness shortly after birth, with referral for further testing and intervention being made if indicated. The aim of the screening is to improve outcomes in affected children via rehabilitation and treatment.

It is vitally important that the right hearing tests are undertaken; that the results are reported properly; and that appropriate referrals for treatment, intervention and support are made. Without this, children are likely to suffer the consequences of such failings by falling behind in terms of their speech and learning.

The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team has acted on behalf of children who have suffered in this way because of inadequate testing, reporting, medical treatment and support.