How the world’s children hear: A narrative review of school hearing screening programs globally

Michael Yong, Neelima Panth, Catherine M. McMahon, Peter R. Thorne, Susan D. Emmett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
317 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: School hearing screening may mitigate the effects of childhood hearing loss through early identification and intervention. This study provides an overview of existing school hearing screening programs around the world, identifies gaps in the literature, and develops priorities for future research.

Data Sources: A structured search of the PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases.

Review Methods: A total of 65 articles were included according to predefined inclusion criteria. Parameters of interest included age groups screened, audiometric protocols, referral criteria, use of adjunct screening tests, rescreening procedures, hearing loss prevalence, screening test sensitivity and specificity, and loss to follow-up.

Conclusions: School hearing screening is mandated in few regions worldwide, and there is little accountability regarding whether testing is performed. Screening protocols differ in terms of screening tests included and thresholds used. The most common protocols included a mix of pure tone screening (0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz), otoscopy, and tympanometry. Estimates of region-specific disease prevalence were methodologically inaccurate, and rescreening was poorly addressed. Loss to follow-up was also a ubiquitous concern.

Implications for Practice: There is an urgent need for standardized school hearing screening protocol guidelines globally, which will facilitate more accurate studies of hearing loss prevalence and determination of screening test sensitivity and specificity. In turn, these steps will increase the robustness with which we can study the effects of screening and treatment interventions, and they will support the development of guidelines on the screening, diagnostic, and rehabilitation services needed to reduce the impact of childhood hearing loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalOTO Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • audiometry
  • children
  • hearing loss
  • otoacoustic emissions
  • school
  • school hearing screening
  • tympanometry


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