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Missed vision and hearing screenings in schools due to pandemic: Here are problem signs to look for in kids

Medical staff and families are now playing catch up after schools canceled or postponed state mandated screenings due to the pandemic.

AKRON, Ohio — The connection between a child's health and their academic success is undeniable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the Health & Academics section of their website, the CDC states, "The academic success of America’s youth is strongly linked with their health, and is one way to predict adult health outcomes."

In fact, Ohio's Department of Health requires schools to administer vision and hearing screenings each year for certain grade levels. The program is designed to catch potential health problems early. However, the coronavirus pandemic, remote learning and safety protocols forced some schools to cancel or postpone their in-school screenings.

The Ohio Department of Health is in the process of analyzing the vision and hearing data from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year, so it's not yet known exactly how many schools didn't perform screenings. 

"We're seeing a lot of kids that are behind," said Michele Wilmoth, Director of School Health Services at Akron Children's Hospital. "People got behind in their well visit, behind in their preventative screenings."

Akron Children's school health services department sends their medical team to staff clinics in 300 schools in 10 Ohio counties. Eighty-nine of those schools have full health centers within the building that offer well-child visits and care for sick children through an Akron Children's nurse practitioner.

"It's been quite difficult for some kids, some students to get into doctor’s offices so that's where we come into play," Andromeda Terry, a medical assistant that travels to schools as part of the program, explained.

Because of their screenings, Terry says the in-school medical team has been able to catch quite a few students who should be wearing glasses. Both Terry and Wilmoth say chronic headaches can be a sign of vision loss in children.

RELATED: Eye screenings vital to kids' back to school health

According to Akron Children’s Hospital, other warning signs of a vision problem include:

  • constant eye rubbing
  • extreme light sensitivity
  • poor focusing
  • poor visual tracking (following an object)
  • abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes (after 6 months of age)
  • chronic redness of the eyes
  • chronic tearing of the eyes
  • a white pupil instead of black
  • being unable to see objects at a distance
  • having trouble reading the blackboard
  • squinting
  • difficulty reading
  • sitting too close to the TV

Warning signs for hearing loss include:

  • limited, poor, or no speech
  • frequently inattentive
  • difficulty learning
  • seems to need higher TV volume
  • fails to respond to conversation-level speech or answers inappropriately to speech
  • fails to respond to his or her name or easily frustrated when there's a lot of background noise
  • saying "what" several times when you talk to them
  • not being able to identify where a sound is coming from
  • dropping of grades with their teacher saying that they do not respond to their questions
  • speaking louder than before or start falling behind in speech or communication skills
  • easily frustrated or experience communication breakdowns

For parents or guardians concerned about a missed hearing or vision screening in school, Wilmoth recommends reaching out to your child's school nursing staff or teacher. They should be able to connect you to the resources you need.