Hearing Loss in Children
No child is too young to have his or her hearing tested. In fact, some hearing tests can be done on newborns. These tests are important because they help identify hearing problems early. The sooner a hearing problem is found, the sooner managing hearing loss can begin. This allows for the best possible outcome for the child. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, be sure to mention them to your child’s healthcare provider. He or she will refer you to an audiologist who will perform one or more hearing tests on your child.
It is generally recommended that all babies be screened within the first month of life. Infancy is an important time for speech and language development. If the screening tests identify that your child has a hearing loss, further testing may be needed. Below are common hearing tests that are performed on children and infants.
Hearing Tests for Infants and Children
There are two primary types of hearing screening methods for children and infants including newborns. These may be used alone or together depending on your child’s needs.
Tympanometry: This will test your child’s middle ear function. The audiologist will be looking to see how well your child’s eardrum responds to sound pressure. This hearing test can detect anything that would inhibit motion of the eardrum like fluid, perforation, infection, or eustachian tube dysfunction. This test is painless and can be completed in less than one minute.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE): This test uses a small, flexible plug that is inserted into the baby’s ear. Sounds are sent through the plug. A microphone in the plug records the otoacoustic emissions of the normal ear in reaction to the sounds. There are little or no emissions in a baby with hearing loss. This test can be completed within a few minutes, while the baby sleeps.
If your child is a little older (i.e. 3+ years) and able to respond to simple instructions, we may utilize conditioned play audiometry to gain further information regarding hearing sensitivity. This goes one step further than the previous two hearing screening methods and may provide the audiologist with important information about your child’s hearing ability.
Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA): Conditioned play audiometry is a noninvasive way for us to playfully interact with your child and obtain more specific hearing threshold data. Your child will be trained to perform an activity each time a sound is heard, such as putting a block in a box or putting a ring on a cone.