There are many times children have their hearing evaluated. The most common are the screenings that children have in the hospital when they're newborn, screenings at pediatrician's well visit physicals, and in school. In our offices, there are several reasons our ENT physicians request a hearing test for their young patients. They may want to see how ear infections may be affecting hearing to determine the best possible treatment options. They may want a retest to see how hearing has improved following treatment. In addition, we may be evaluating concerns over hearing loss when nothing may be obvious from looking in the ears.
What’s In A Child Hearing Test
Depending on a child's age and abilities, the audiologists at Advanced Specialty Care use a variety of techniques to evaluate hearing. All hearing testing involves presenting a known stimulus (a calibrated sound) to the child, and looking for a response to that signal. Obviously, newborns and toddlers aren't up to raising their hand when they hear a sound, like older children or adults. That ability starts when children are from the 3 to 5-year-old range. One of the methods we frequently use for preschoolers is call play audiometry.
Hearing Test For Preschoolers
With play audiometry, we make a game out of hearing testing, and it can be a lot of fun for all involved! Instead of raising a hand when the sound is heard, a different response is called for - a fun action. For example, we often have the child put a colorful block into a bucket each time the sound is heard and try to ”'fill up the bucket”. The child wears headphones, we have them hold the block up near the ear we're evaluating, and watch 'em go. They may be sitting on a parent's lap, or alone if they want. The audiologist controls the equipment to make a different range of sounds. We usually have some assistance from the parent or a sibling - such as holding the bucket or giving the next block - so that all may be involved with the game.
We make sure the child being tested does not see us controlling the equipment, so they're truly responding to what they hear, and not to our pressing a button. A lot of praise is offered for just trying (even if they don't quite get the technique) and, of course, for a job well done, whether the results are normal or not.
Other Hearing Test Tools
There are other evaluation tools we may use in the same visit, such as otoacoustic emissions. Often we try and gain a measurement of how well a child is hearing speech too, whether it's repeating specific test words through the headphones, or pointing to a picture of the word they've heard.
Evaluation of children's hearing is very important. The methods that we use are geared towards the individual child, are painless, and can be a lot of fun! If you think your child may benefit from a hearing evaluation, contact us at one of our Fairfield County, CT offices. We are located in Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield.
- Art Tepper, Au.D.