Taking Your Child to the Audiologist
Routine hearing tests are offered to newborn babies and children at different ages to help catch any hearing problems early on in their life. Serious hearing problems during childhood are rare, but testing early can ensure that if there are any problems, they are picked up and managed as early as possible, making it much easier to deal with.
Why hearing tests are important
The hearing tests that are carried out soon after birth can identify most babies that have significant hearing loss. Testing later on in childhood can catch any problems that may have been missed or that are getting worse. If children’s hearing is not tested, then a hearing problem could go undiagnosed for a long time, potentially even years.
It is very important to catch hearing problems as early as you can because being unable to hear can cause your child difficulty with their speech or language development, social skills and education.
Treatment is most effective if the problem is identified and managed properly as early as possible. An early diagnosis will also make sure that you and your child have access to any special support services that might help you both.
Hearing tests for children
There are different hearing tests that can be used to check children for hearing problems, which are usually made by an audiologist.
Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) is used to test the hearing in children who are between six months and two and a half years old. During this test, you will sit with your child in your lap, or they will sit in a chair by themselves, while sounds are played to them. The child will be taught to link the sound they hear to a visual reward, like a toy or a screen lighting up. When your child is able to associate the sound with the visual reward, then the volume and pitch of the sound will be changed to determine the quietest sounds that your child can hear.
Children between the age of one and a half and five years old can have a play audiometry test. During the test, sounds are played through headphones or speakers. Your child will be asked to perform a simple task when they hear the sounds. This might be completing a puzzle or putting a ball in a tub. The volume and pitch of the sound played will be varied to find out what the quietest sounds your child can hear are.
Older children may be tested with pure tone audiometry. This test is often used to screen their hearing before they start school, and is sometimes called the sweep test. This test is similar to the test that an adult might have. During this test, a machine will generate a sound at different volumes and frequencies, through headphones. Your child will be asked to respond by pressing a button when they hear the sound.
As well using speakers and headphones, some of these tests can also be carried out by using a small vibrating device behind the ear. This device passes sound directly to the inner ear through the bones in your child’s head. This can then identify which part of the ear isn’t functioning properly and causing the hearing problems.
Tympanometry is a test used to assess how flexible the eardrum is. To have good hearing, the eardrum needs to be flexible if it is going to allow sound to pass through it. If the eardrum is too rigid, which can be caused by fluid behind the eardrum, sounds will bounce back instead of passing through. During this test, a soft rubber tube is placed at the entrance of your child's ear. Air will be blown gently down the tube and a sound is played through a small speaker inside it. The tube then measures the sound that's bounced back from the ear.
Hearing loss can happen to any child and can be caused by lots of different things, such as a sudden loud noise, medication, illness or genetic issues. Exposure to loud noises, such as going to loud concerts or spending time in a very loud environment, can gradually cause someone’s hearing to become damaged.
Your child may lose the ability to hear sounds at certain pitches or may find their hearing is less sensitive in general, especially in environments with a lot of background noise. If you notice their hearing is going, you should seek medical treatment in order to protect the rest of their hearing as best as you can. To learn more about hearing loss in children and what can be done about it, call The Center for Audiology today at Houston: 713-255-0035, Pearland: 713-800-5050.