School-based hearing screening in Sweden - An evaluation of current practices

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2021 Nov:150:110938. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2021.110938. Epub 2021 Oct 5.


Objectives: Routines for school hearing screening vary between municipalities in Sweden, and no study has been carried out to investigate how this is conducted throughout the country. The aim of the present study was to determine the extent of school hearing screening, and how it is performed in all the municipalities in Sweden.

Methods: An online survey was used to collect information on school hearing screening from municipalities in Sweden (N = 290). The survey included questions on the performance of hearing screening, including stimulus level and frequencies tested, the criteria for referral for further hearing evaluation, as well as the equipment and room used for testing, and who carried out the screening. Questions were also included on experience of, and attitudes towards hearing screening.

Results: Answers were received from 225 municipalities (response rate 78%). Universal school hearing screening was performed in 202 municipalities, while in the other municipalities hearing screening was performed when a child was evaluated due to speech delay or learning difficulties. Many different protocols were used involving different stimulus levels, frequencies, and referral criteria. The most common was testing with pure tone audiometry with a lowest stimulus level of 20 dB HL at five frequencies, 500-6000 Hz. Hearing screening was usually performed in the preparation class (6 years of age), while in other municipalities it was performed in year 1 (7 years of age). Hearing screening was usually performed once in primary school, while some municipalities carried out screening once in primary school and once in high school. More rarely, hearing screening was conducted twice in primary school. In 25 % of the municipialities, newly arrived immigrant children were screened. Difficulties in performing hearing screening were reported, such as lack of soundproof rooms, lack of time and technical difficulties. There was an opinion among the participants that identifying students with hearing loss is important, as it affects their learning ability and communication skills. and they expressed a desire for national guidelines.

Conclusions: Hearing screening is performed in the vast majority of municipally run schools in Sweden. The way in which screening was performed varied regarding the stimulus level and frequencies used, as well as the criteria for referral to a specialist. The attitude towards hearing screening was positive among the participants. Hearing screening of newly immigrated children is important as their previous medical history is often unknown. There is a need for national guidelines on hearing screening of Swedish schoolchildren. Efforts must continue to ensure that the same level of healthcare regarding children's hearing is provided throughout the whole of Sweden.

Keywords: Hearing loss; Hearing screening; Pure tone audiometry; School health service; Schoolchildren.

MeSH terms

  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Child
  • Hearing Loss* / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss* / epidemiology
  • Hearing*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Schools
  • Sweden / epidemiology