You’ve been told that your child needs to have their hearing checked. This can be a scary time especially when your baby is just a few days old. We understand how you’re feeling and rest assured we’ll promise to answer all your questions and to make sure your visit with us is as stress free as possible.
Regardless of your child’s age, there are safe, effective and accurate tests that can be used to determine how well your child hears.
Newborns and Infants
In the United States, approximately 3 of 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss.
Prior to the development of new technology in hearing testing, parents had to wait until their child was old enough to take a formal hearing test in order to check for hearing loss. Many children were not identified with significant hearing loss until the age of two or older.
Assessing Newborns and Infants
ABR screening allows hearing testing within the first days of life. Newborn screening is simple and painless, and could make a significant difference to a child’s future.
For this test, sounds are delivered to the infant’s ear via small disposable earphones designed to attenuate (reduce) background noise. Band-Aid like electrodes are placed on the baby’s head to detect responses. This test measures how the hearing nerve responds to sounds and can identify babies who have a hearing loss.
Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)
An infant’s hearing can be screened by measuring the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR). The AABR method produces a simple pass or fail result without requiring interpretation, and the test can be conducted in the presence of background noise. The AABR test is solely a screening technique designed to identify infants who require follow-up testing. It cannot be used to determine the degree or nature of the hearing loss.
Diagnostic Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
Diagnostic ABR testing is generally not used in universal newborn hearing screening programs because of the length of the procedure, the cost, and the need for an audiologist to perform the test and interpret the results.
ABR recordings are generally obtained by placing Band-Aid like electrodes on the forehead and behind both ears. Unlike the AABR test, which gets a response to a fixed sound level (loudness), the loudness of the stimulus is varied in the diagnostic ABR test to determine the lowest level required to obtain a response. This form of ABR testing allows the audiologist to determine not only the severity of the hearing loss but also the nature of the hearing loss.
A small percentage of babies do not pass the screening AABR. This is likely due to a blockage of the ear canal with birth fluids or debris, fluid in the middle ear, or movement and/or crying during the test. Those babies that don’t pass will either be retested a day or two later or will be referred to a center like ours for further evaluation.
In the event your baby does not pass the screening it is very important to take your baby for the follow-up testing. This is the only way to be sure that your baby is hearing.
Infants and Toddlers
Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA)
Once a child reaches the age of 6-7 months to 2+ years old, sounds are presented through a speaker or earphone. The child is trained to look toward the sound. When the child looks to the sound, he sees a moving toy or a flashing light. As children mature they may be asked to point to pictures in a book, body parts, i.e. eyes, ears, nose, fingers, or objects in the room.
If a child will not tolerate headphones, sounds can be played through loudspeakers, however, only the better ear is tested, and a hearing loss in one ear may be unidentified.
Ages 3 – 4
At three to four years old the child can usually respond to a sound by placing a block in a bucket, pegs in a board, etc. With earphones on or in both ears, the child is taught to wait, listen, and respond.
Ages 5 and up
Most children once they reach the age of 5 can be tested using the same methods used with adults.
The identification and diagnostic process is closely linked with a comprehensive program of early intervention, insuring the availability of important auditory information during the early, critical years of hearing development.