Eyesight or hearing problems, recognising the signs

It can be very hard to recognise the sometimes subtle signs that may indicate eyesight or hearing problems in young children and babies. As babies are only just developing, it can be difficult for them to know what is ‘normal’ when it comes to their senses and bodily functions. Parents, carers and childcare centres can look out for certain symptoms such as:

Eyesight:
Squint (one or both eyes may turn outwards or inwards)
Cloudy (the pupils are whitish or cloudy)
Reacting (pupils don’t react to light and dark)
Following (eyes don’t follow toy or objects shown to them)
Jerky (eyes show random jerky movement)

Hearing:
Startling (does not turn head or eyes to locate a loud sound)
Recognition (is not recognising your voice)
Speech development (older babies and toddlers should start to respond to certain sounds and begin to communicate, hearing problems will hinder these milestones)

Luckily, however, there are many trustworthy processes put in place by the NSW Department of Health, meaning that any problem with your child’s hearing or sight should be picked up during the recommended routine checks available to all families.

StEPS, the Statewide Eyesight Preschooler Screening program, offers free vision screening for all 4 year olds. They highly recommend taking this opportunity to check any problems that may have been missed, or have developed since your earlier milestone checks with your doctor or health visitor. After around eight years of age many eyesight issues become harder to treat, and problems that could be fully corrected earlier on may not be fully rectified.

Your preschool or early learning centre should offer the screening through your local Area Health Service. Simply complete the consent form and return it to your childcare centre. Otherwise, you can contact your local Child & Family Health Service direct.

SWIS-H, the Statewide Infant Screening – Hearing program, aims to identify babies born with hearing problems and link them to the appropriate services as soon as possible after birth. Each Local Health District has a SWIS-H Coordinator who is responsible for implementing and managing the screening program across all the facilities in their area.

There are many advanced modern procedures to correct childhood problems with sight and hearing. If we stay vigilant and make good use of the government services and initiatives that are offered to us, then we can be sure to pick up on any problems very early on in the developmental stages.

Just remember to keep your ‘blue book’ updated and rely on the many avenues of support offered by our NSW health departments and highly legislated childcare centres.