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Vision and Hearing Screenings in Schools

Howard County screens children new to the Maryland school system and those in Pre-K or Kindergarten, first and eighth grades.

Why are vision and hearing screenings held in schools?

  • Healthy vision and hearing are critical parts of a child’s growth.
  • Seeing and hearing well are important to a child’s success in school.
  • Many vision and hearing problems can be treated best if caught early.
  • Approximately 80% of what a child learns in school is presented visually.
  • Even mild hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop speech and language.

What is the difference between a screening and a comprehensive medical exam?

  • A screening is a simple test that only checks to see if a child is having difficulty seeing or hearing.
  • A comprehensive medical exam is done by a medical professional such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist for vision, and/or an audiologist for hearing. The medical exam is a detailed evaluation of vision or hearing, as well as overall eye and ear health.

What should I do if my child receives a hearing or vision referral from their school?

Take the referral letter to your provider (optometrist or ophthalmologist for vision; primary care or audiologist for hearing) for a comprehensive exam. The provider will fill out the information to be returned to the school nurse.

Signs your child may need an eye or ear exam:

  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Turning of one eye
  • Frequent rubbing eye or ear
  • Excessive blinking
  • Tilting the head
  • Discharge from eye or ear
  • Covering or closing an eye when looking at something
  • Family history of eye or ear problems
  • Diabetes and/or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or a history of traumatic brain injury
  • Not responding to noises or speech

What resources are available to help me get my child a hearing or eye examination?

If you do not have health insurance, you can get assistance at the Health Department Bureau of Access to Healthcare at 410-313-6300 or, or see your school nurse.