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There are a number of reasons why a parent, family member, or pediatrician may request that a child is referred to a pediatric audiologist for a hearing test.
If a baby did not pass the newborn hearing screening, that child will be referred to a pediatric audiologist for follow-up diagnostic testing and intervention. Most children pass their newborn hearing screening but may show signs that raise concern for a hearing loss as toddlers such as delayed speech/language development, asking for frequent repetition, frequent ear infections, lack of responses to sound, and a family history of hearing loss.
If there is any concern regarding a child’s ability to hear, it is important to consult with a pediatric audiologist for testing and potential intervention.
Hearing is the pathway by which sound has access to the brain. Without the ability to hear properly, children cannot learn speech and language adequately, which can in turn have a negative effect on their social, educational, and emotional development.
Research has shown that the first four years of life are critical for learning language. If a child does not receive proper language input early in life (whether through auditory input or sign language), the brain begins to make changes and to use the resources that were originally designated for speech and language for other functions of the body. For this reason, if concern has been raised about a potential hearing loss for a child, early testing and timely intervention are crucial to ensure the child has proper treatment and access to language.
Behavioral audiological testing is non-invasive and is really fun! The audiologist will first try to look in the child’s ears to check the condition of the ear canal and the tympanic membrane (the ear drum). After that, the audiologist will typically perform some preliminary tests to make sure the ear drum and the cells of the inner ear are working properly. Neither one of these tests cause pain, but they require the child to tolerate a small rubber tip in his or her ears, and to sit quietly for about 30 seconds per ear. After the preliminary tests have been attempted, the child will go into the sound booth either by themselves or with a parent.
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