A child who passes their hearing test at birth can still develop a hearing loss. We need a range of ways of identifying children who may need intervention as early as possible within their first five years.
The PLUM and HATS have been designed to screen listening and communication skills in children under 6 years of age.
The earlier that we pick up a child with hearing problems, the earlier we can help the child.
We know that if you pick up hearing loss and do something to make sure bub hears well before the age of three, it makes a big difference to listening and communication skills.
Some groups are particularly at risk of early hearing loss: about 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience long-term ear infections. These often start before a child is 1 year old.
Hearing Australia currently reports that the average age of first hearing aid fitting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is around 6 years. This is much later than other Australian children, who receive their first hearing aids at around 6 months of age.
Parents and carers are key, so we need tools that can be easily used with them by primary health and early education workers.
Parents and carers know their child best, but it can be difficult to answer a simple question like “Do you have any concerns about your child’s hearing?” if you don’t know what to look out for.
The PLUM and the HATS are designed to ask parents and carers the right questions about their child’s listening and talking behaviour in everyday situations. They do not need to know anything about listening or communication behaviour in order to give us good information about their child. Answers to the questions assist with picking up children who need help.
These scales have been tested with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in urban, regional and remote areas, as well as a general population.
In summary, the main reasons the PLUM and HATS were developed include:
- To enable children who need help with developing listening skills to receive that help earlier.
- To ensure that the scales are appropriate to use with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
- To give parents and carers the right questions to answer about their child’s listening and communication behaviour.