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Types of Hearing Tests for Infants and Children

Types of Hearing Tests for Infants and Children

While you can ask an adult whether they’ve noticed a deterioration in their hearing, it’s not so easy when it comes to children and infants. Discovering whether they have deficits in hearing can be a challenge. Many young children lack the language to communicate their hearing loss or the situations in which they find it difficult to listen to the people around them. Some are not even aware that they have hearing problems in the first place. 

The job of professional audiologists, therefore, is to find ways to test hearing in children and babies, which gets around the language barrier. Here are some of the types of hearing tests that they use. 

Hearing tests for older children

Older children aged three and above tend to have good language skills and a working concept of what you’re trying to achieve: diagnose problems with their hearings. 

Audiologists, in general, use two techniques to assess the hearing of older children. 

  • Tympanometry: Tympanometry, sometimes called impedance audiometry, is a technique that checks the function of the middle ear. It doesn’t actually provide any information on the state of the child’s hearing, but it does show whether there are pressure changes in the middle ear consistent with adequate hearing capacity. Typically, audiologists reserve this test for older children because it requires them to sit still and not cry for an extended period - something that babies tend to find difficult. 
  • Pure-tone audiometry: Pure-tone audiometry is a standard hearing test audiologists also use on adults. Here the child sits in a soundproof booth and listens to pure tones piped through from a machine to a set of earphones. The audiologist plays a range of sounds at different volumes and asks the child to indicate when they can hear something. 

Hearing tests for toddlers

The difficulty in testing the hearing of toddlers is greater than for older children. Audiologists, therefore, have developed a set of techniques to determine the hearing loss in infants of this age group. 

  • Tone audiometry with play: Tone audiometry with play works similarly to pure tone audiometry for older children. But instead of getting the child to sit passively until they hear a noise, audiologists turn the process into a game. So, for instance, the audiologist gets the child to pick up a toy every time they hear a sound. 
  • Visual reinforcement audiometry: Visual reinforced audiometry involves training children to look towards the source of a sound physically. The audiologist plays noise and then waits for the child to look in the correct direction. When he or she does, the audiologist rewards them with a visual cue, such as a toy moving or a flashing light. 

Hearing tests for babies and newborns

Finding out whether a child has a hearing impediment early on is vital to ensure that they develop in the usual way. But, as you might imagine, testing newborns and babies for hearing issues is a challenge. Audiologists have established the following techniques: 

  • Auditory brainstem response: One of the first tasks of the audiologist is to find out whether the baby’s brain responds to sound. Auditory brainstem response works by attaching wires to a baby’s scalp while they sleep and then playing a series of noises. If the auditory part of the brain is working correctly, the electrodes will pick up on the brain activity and yield a positive result. 
  • Evoked otoacoustic emissions: The idea behind this test is to listen to the ear as it operates in response to sounds. When the ear is working correctly, it emits a sound that audiologists can detect. The way the test works is simple. The audiologist places a tiny microphone in the baby’s ear designed to pic up their otoacoustic responses - the sounds given off by their ears as they work. He or she then places a plug into the baby’s ear, and pipes sound through it. The microphone then listens to see if the ear responds. If it doesn’t, then it could be an indication that the baby has hearing loss. 
  • Behavioral audiometry: Older babies will naturally react to certain sounds. In behavioral audiometry, the audiologist plays a series of noises and then waits to see if the baby reacts. If it doesn’t, then, again, it could be a sign of hearing loss. 

Are you concerned that your child or baby might have issues with their hearing? If so, then get in touch with us at Audiology Clinics of Puerto Rico today. Call our Aguadilla office at 787-882-8585 or our Mayaguez office at 787-834-0660 to learn more.