Knowing when the best time is to perform a hearing test for children is very important. Equally as important is knowingwhat types of hearing tests are most suitable for children of different ages and comprehension levels. Read on for a brief guide to the different tests available.
Hearing Tests for Newborns
Newborns identified with hearing loss should be treated before reaching 6 months of age, as this is a pivotal time for their speech development and language acquisition. For this reason, it’s vital that a hearing test is conducted before the 6 month mark.
Newborn hearing tests are conducted using the Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) test and the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test. Both of these tests are harmless for the newborn and can be completed within a few minutes, preferably during a time when the newborn is asleep.
With OAE tests, a sound-producing mini microphone is positioned inside the newborn’s ear. As the sounds reach the ear, any sounds caused by the cochlea’s reaction are tracked by activity in the area of the ear canal. These sound emissions can be evaluated to establish hearing limits within a certain frequency range. If no sound is being emitted by these areas of the newborn’s ears, this indicatessome level of hearing loss.
In the case of ABR tests, harmless electrodes are positioned around the newborn’s ears and head. An acoustic signal is transmitted separately to the ears using headphones. Any recorded brain activity following the stimulus can show the newborn’s hearing limits.
Regardless of the test used, a newborn that fails the test should be retested to verify the initial finding. If the second hearing test for children confirms hearing loss is present, the child should be referred to an audiologist.
Hearing Tests for Infants
For infants (7 months old to 2 years old), the OAE and ABR tests can still be used. In addition to these tests, a behavioural audiometry test can be used to record the infant’s responses to various sound stimuli. Another test that can be performed is a sound field test with visual reinforcement.
As with the OAE and ABR tests, infants who fail behavioural audiometry or sound fielding tests should be referred to an audiologist.
Hearing Tests for Toddlers
In the case of toddlers (2 years old to 3 years old), the OAE, ABR, behavioural audiometry and sound fielding tests can all be used to evaluate hearing. Another useful test is Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA), which involves a sound test with headphones as well as participation from the toddler. This test is usually turned into a kind of game in which the toddler is instructed to perform an action with a toy once they hear a sound.
Hearing Tests for Older Children
One prominent hearing test for children who are older is the Tympanometry test. This test can determine the functional capacity of the child’s inner ear through the movement of their eardrum, stimulated by a puff of air. A specialised machine then analyses and processes the eardrum’s movement. Tympanometry is normally used for older children because it requires them to sit still for some time, which is not practical for younger children.