Hearing is important at all ages, but especially during the first few years of life.
Hearing plays an imperative role in a child’s social, cognitive, and emotional development. If a child experiences even mild hearing loss, it has the ability to impact their language and speech development.
- If hearing issues are caught early in children, there are often interventions that can be explored.
- Any parent who is concerned should consult their child’s doctor for information on the necessary testing.
Newborn Hearing Screening
When children are born with hearing loss, this screening will be able to identify it. Before newborns are released from the hospital, they should have this testing. It is part of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention initiative throughout the United States. For children not born in a hospital, it is recommended that they have this screening done during their initial three weeks of life. Not passing the screening may indicate an issue, or it can mean that fluid or debris in the ear interfered with the testing. If the initial screening is abnormal, it is generally recommended that it be redone within three months.
Auditory Steady State Response Test
For this test, infants are usually sedated or sleeping. The computer records the brain’s response to sound as it passes into the child’s ear canals. It can help to determine the severity of hearing loss. It is done along with the auditory brain stem response test.
Auditory Brain Stem Response Test
Tiny earphones are put into the child’s ear canals, and electrodes are placed on the forehead and behind the ears. The earphones transmit clicking sounds so that the electrodes are able to record the response of the hearing nerves to that sound. Sleeping or sedation is generally recommended for infants, but older kids may be able to participate without being sedated as long as the environment they are in is silent.
Central Auditory Evoked Potential Test
This test uses the electrodes and earphones like the auditory brain stem response test. It is performed to see if the pathways that travel between the auditory cortex and brain stem are working properly. This might be done if a specific type of hearing loss is suspected.
Otoacoustic Emissions Test
This is a quick test where pulsing sounds are used to record an “echo” response via the use of a tiny probe. It is done to determine if the inner ear’s outer hair cells are working properly.
Middle Ear Muscle Reflex Test
This test is done by evoking a reflex to see how the ear responds to loud sounds. When everything is normal, the reflex occurs to protect the ear when the child is in a loud environment or experiences a sudden loud noise.
This is a test that may be performed instead of a hearing test, and the purpose is to measure eardrum movement as the result of the ear canal receiving air pressure and soft sound. It might be considered if the child is suspected to have a middle ear problem.