Just as eye tests inform you if your child needs glasses, routine hearing checks are an important way to identify any hearing problems early on. Without proper treatment, hearing loss can affect the development of a child, including their ability to learn to talk, do well in school, and communicate with others without frustration. Audiologists can administer a variety of hearing tests, all of which should only take a few minutes and cause no discomfort to your child.
Types of Hearing Tests for Children
The type of hearing test a child needs will vary depending on age. Audiologists should be able to test hearing even for young children and babies.
One of two methods may be used to administer a hearing test to a newborn. The first is through auditory brainstem response. This is done by measuring the baby’s brain’s response to clicking sounds through sensors placed on the head. This is generally done while the baby sleeps and is a safe and non-intrusive process.
The second type of screening process is done using something called evoked otoacoustic emissions. A device is placed in the baby’s ear that both makes and records sound. As the device makes sounds of various pitches, a part of the ear called the cochlea should send back emissions that can be picked up by the device. If nothing is picked up, it is a sign that there is hearing loss.
Both of these tests are gentle and should cause no pain or discomfort to the newborn. They are not very time-consuming and are meant to quickly gauge whether an infant needs further evaluation or not.
Hearing in toddlers is often tested using a method called play audiometry. This is an interactive test that most young children enjoy. It turns the hearing test into a game that challenges them to respond to sounds. During the audiology appointment, the child will wear headphones and respond to different pitches of sound. The downside to this test is that if the toddler does not want to cooperate, it can be difficult to get clear results.
Children Aged Four and Older
For school-aged children, an audiology evaluation can be done through the simple pure tone audiometry test. This is the same test that is often used for adults and requires the child to sit with headphones on and acknowledge when they can hear different tones.
When Should Hearing Be Tested?
There are some times when audiology tests are routine, such as after a baby is born or periodically at some elementary schools. In addition to making sure that your child or baby is available for these routine tests, you should always go for an audiology check-up if you suspect hearing loss is starting to develop. When children score low on a preliminary test, a full audiology evaluation may be needed to learn more about their hearing and whether medical intervention is needed.
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