Children are usually referred for a hearing test due to a failed hearing screening, possible ear infections, or a delay in speech. The purpose of doing a hearing test on a child is to rule out any permanent hearing loss, determine if medical treatment is necessary, or to determine if the child would benefit from the use of hearing aids.
Here is what to expect from your child's hearing evaluation:
1. Tympanometry: This test uses a small probe placed in the ear to determine the functionality of the ear drum. Your child may feel a little pressure in the ear during the test, but it does not hurt. This is used to rule out any fluid behind the ear drum, will reveal if there is a hole in the ear drum, and will gauge the function of a tube if present.
2. Otoacoustic Emissions: OAEs are completed on children who are two years or younger who have difficulty providing reliable results in the sound booth. This test is commonly used for newborn hearing screenings and is conducted by placing a probe in the child’s ear. The probe emits a clicking sound into the ear. If the ear is functioning normally, it will receive the sound and emit an echo back out. The test measures that echo to see if the child is hearing within normal limits. A failing result may indicate a medical issue such as an ear infection or permanent hearing loss. Other test results will help to determine what is the cause of the failing result.
3. Sound Booth Testing: This is similar to the hearing test performed on adults but with a few modifications to engage the child's attention.
If the child is under 3 years old, we will likely perform a hearing test called Visual Reinforcement Audiometry. For this test a sound is presented, and a toy lights up for the child to see. Once the child associates seeing the toy with hearing the sound the test begins. The tone is presented, and the child will look for the toy to light up. The toy lights up only if the child looks. This is considered a response. Like an adult, we are determining the softest sound that they can detect.
If the child is 3 or older, Conditioning Play Audiometry is done. For this task, the child is asked to listen to a block and when they hear the tone, they are to throw the block into a bucket. We are looking for the softest sound that they can hear.
Children over the age of 6 can typically complete an adult hearing test. After analysis of results, you will be counseled on the next step of treatment. Sometimes, a medical condition exists in which it is best to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat Physician. If no medical condition exists and hearing loss is present, your child may be referred for further testing to confirm the hearing loss prior to a hearing aid consultation.