Hearing Tests for Children - A guide to Hearing Loss

If your child’s hearing is giving you cause for concern then a hearing test can help. This can detect whether there is an underlying cause of this problem and the results of this used when deciding upon a suitable course of treatment.

Hearing tests can be performed on babies as well as children. Tests on babies are a recent development which allows the specialist to pick up on any possible hearing defects at a vital early stage.If there is a problem then the quicker (and earlier) this is picked up the greater the chance of treating it. In many cases this can result in normal hearing or if not, then prevent any form of hearing loss from becoming worse.

Hearing tests for babies

This may seem revolutionary but newborn babies can successfully undergo a hearing test. This test will usually be performed at the hospital where the baby was born. If you opted for a home birth then it can be performed there or at a clinic if preferred. The person who will carry out this test will be a highly trained and experienced professional who will also be used to dealing with babies and young children.

The test itself is painless and in many cases the baby falls asleep during the test!

The test itself is called an ‘Automated Otoacoustic Emissions’ test which involves placing a small ear piece into the baby’s ear. This device is connected to a computer and this contains sensors which can detect sounds.

The ear piece emits a series of gentle sounds or ‘echoes’, from the cochlea, whose reverberations are picked up by the sensors. These sensors are interpreted by the computer and the results displayed as a graphic.

These results will show if the baby has a healthy cochlea (or not). This test is performed on both ears.

If the results are unclear or unsatisfactory then a second test will be performed. If there isn’t a good response from this then another test will be performed called an ‘Automated Auditory Brainstem Response Test’.

If your baby requires a second test then don’t assume that this is an indicator of a hearing problem. It is probably due to the fact that your baby’s ears contain mucous and other fluids which were present during the birth but haven’t completely cleared. These substances can block the ears and so prevent normal hearing.

In this case it’s best to wait a few weeks until all of these fluids have drained away from the ears and then perform another test.

Childhood hearing tests

Your child will undergo a hearing test once they start primary school. This is called the ‘School Entry Hearing Screen’ and is a variation on one of several adult hearing tests called ‘Pure Tone Audiometry’.

The child wears a set of headphone through which they can hear a range of different sounds. These sounds differ according to pitch and volume. The child pushes a button each time they hear a sound which helps the tester determine that child’s level of hearing.

Your child will not have their hearing tested prior to starting school unless there is a medical need. Your child’s speech and hearing will be checked pre-school as part of a series of developmental checks and any potential problems will be detected then.

There are other hearing tests suitable for babies and/or young children and these include:

  • Auditory brainstem response: sensors and headphones are placed on the child’s head; with the aim of trying to detect whether sound is transmitted from the cochlea to the brain via the auditory nerve.
  • Visual response audiometry: similar to the pure tone audiometry test except that the child will be visually ‘rewarded’ when they hear a sound. For example an object will light up as they hear a particular sound.

These tests rely upon ‘air transmission’: in other words, the passing of sound waves through the middle ear to the cochlea.

A different type of test called ‘Bone Conduction’aims to assess whether hearing loss is conductive or sensorineural. It involves placing a tiny, vibrating device behind the child’s ear which will transmit sound through the bones of the head towards the inner ear.

There is also a test called ‘Tympanometry’ which is not designed to test hearing; but it can check how well the middle ear functions. It involves using a small pump to change air pressure levels within the ear and measuring the response of the ear drum to these changes.

The ear drum should move easily in response to these variable pressure levels.

If it doesn’t then this indicates a problem such as a build up of fluid or some other substance which can be a sign of otitis media or glue ear.

A range of different tests may be needed, depending on the extent of your child’s hearing loss.

The results of these tests will dictate the treatment required, for example a hearing aid.

Find out more about these in our treatment for hearing loss children section.

Hearing Loss in Children : A guide to Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

Medic8® Guides

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved