Pediatric Diagnostic Audiology at ChEARS Hearing Center
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.
Why is hearing important?
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.
Early Intervention is Key!
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.
Types of Behavioral Audiological Evaluations
What you can expect during your child’s hearing test appointment
- 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.
- Children between the ages of 6 months and about 2.5 years old will typically be tested using Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA). The child will sit on their parent’s lap and will listen to sounds either through a speaker or headphones. The audiologist will train the child to turn his/heard heads to a screen or reinforcer every time they hear a sound. Children typically respond to sound very well during this test, and end up having a lot of fun!
- Children between the ages of 2.5 years and 5 years will go into the sound booth with the audiologist or an assistant and will play a listening game. This is called Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA). Children typically learn this game very quickly, and the necessary information can be obtained in as fast as 15 minutes. If the child can continue with testing, the audiologist may then play a picture pointing game or have the child say some words to assess their ability to perceive speech.
- Children over the age of 5 can typically participate in standard audiometry, through which they will push a button or raise their hand every time they hear a sound and repeat words that are said to them.
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