No One is Too Young for a Hearing Test!

June 25, 2012 Brenna Carroll

Your child is never too young for a hearing test! Different ages require special considerations, but children of all ages can have their hearing tested. Most children born in Washington State receive a hearing test before being discharged from the hospital.

Hearing tests are painless and encouraged for all newborns. According to statistics, approximately 3 in 1000 births will result in permanent hearing loss. Additionally, chronic ear infections, speech and language concerns and some illnesses and infections may lead your child to need a test.

You may remember having your hearing screened as a child at school. Hearing tests have come a long way from the traditional method of wearing headphones and raising a hand in response to a tone! Hearing is assessed using different tools and techniques based on the age of a child.

  • Newborn to 6 months of age: The hearing system is evaluated physiologically while the infant is sleeping. This is done through an Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) screening or an Auditory Brainstem Response Test (ABR or BAER test.) An OAE test is very brief, and involves placing a tip containing a small microphone in an infant’s ear. A sound is emitted into the ear, and the microphone searches for a response to the sound generated by a specific portion (the outer hair cells of the cochlear) of the infant’s ear. If the response is identified, the testing is complete. An absence of a response can mean that additional testing may be necessary to assess the hearing system with an ABR test. The ABR test involves the placement of 4 electrode wires on an infant’s forehead and ears. Click sounds are presented to a sleeping infant, and brain activity is recorded to measure response to the sound. This test may take over an hour to complete and requires a sleeping baby for testing accuracy.
  • 6 months to 2 years: Hearing is tested behaviorally through a process called Visual Reinforcement Audiometry. During this test, a child sits on the lap of a parent and is taught to provide a head turn to view an illuminated image or toy in response to sound. This test is most successful when the child is feeling well rested and cooperative.

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  • 2+ to 4 years: Hearing is assessed with a process called Play Audiometry. During this test, a child is taught to play a “listening game.” The child wears headphones and completes a task such as placing a peg in a board or a block in a bucket when a sound is presented. This child friendly test is often a fun activity for young patients.

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Don’t hesitate to schedule a hearing test for your child if you have concerns about your child’s hearing ability. No one is too young for a hearing test!

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