According to the National Institutes of Health, the most important time for a child to develop language is within the first three years of life. Hearing is critical to that development and getting your child’s hearing evaluated can be the first step in that care. Our pediatric specialists at Hearing Health USA offer complete pediatric hearing health care through our select locations.
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Newborn Hearing Screenings
Newborn hearing screenings are typically completed in the hospital prior to a baby being discharged from the hospital. If a baby passes the newborn hearing screening, audiologic follow up is recommended per the audiologist’s discretion based on the babies medical and family history.
If a baby refers in one or both ears on the newborn hearing screening, further testing is warranted. Follow up testing is often recommended a few weeks after hospital discharge as an outpatient. The audiologist will likely repeat the same test that was completed at birth and pending these results, will complete further testing. Reasons for a baby to not pass an initial hearing screening include hearing loss, ear fluid, or the baby not being compliant with testing conditions. If further testing confirms that a baby has hearing loss in one or both ears, amplification (hearing aids) may be pursued as soon as possible.
The Joint Committee on Infant Hearing Screening (JCIH) recommends all babies have their hearing screened by one month of age, are diagnosed with hearing loss or hearing is determined normal by three months of age, and if there is a hearing loss, intervention should be pursued by six months of age at the very latest.
Hearing and Speech & Language Development
If a child is not able to hear, whether it be due to a permanent or temporary hearing loss, it may impact the child’s speech and language development milestones. This is one reason of many, that it is important to determine a child’s hearing abilities as early as possible. If a child has hearing loss and is given proper intervention in a time sensitive manner, it is likely that a child will be able to meet milestones in the same timeline as a normal hearing individual.
Hearing Screenings at School
Most school districts will conduct hearing screenings on all children in the school district one time a year. These screenings are a good check point to ensure a child is hearing within normal limits. If a child does not pass a hearing screening at school, this could be due to multiple factors. It is important to remember that hearing screenings at school are not typically completed in a sound-proof booth and outside noise can alter the results of the screening. If a child has an ear infection, cold or congestion, this can also alter the results of the hearing screen. If your child refers on a school hearing screening, they will likely be re-screened in a few weeks at the school. If refer results are obtained each time, it is recommended your child follow up with a hearing doctor, an audiologist.
What to Expect at the Audiologist’s Office
An audiologist is a clinical doctor who specializes in hearing and balance disorders. Audiologists will complete multiple tests to determine if there is a hearing impairment and if there is, they can often times determine the type of hearing loss. Depending on the age and developmental level of your child, different testing techniques will be completed.
Generally, infants to 6 months old
Testing will likely be done while the child sleeps. If the baby is unable to be quiet and still during the testing, testing may not be able to be completed. It is important that the parent plan ahead and waits to feed the child or allows the child to sleep until the appointment.
Generally, children aged 6 months to 2.5 years
Testing will likely be completed in the sound booth with the child sitting on the parent’s lap. Sounds will be played from two side speakers at different intensity levels, and the audiologist will be looking for the child to turn their head towards the sound coming from the appropriate speaker. A limitation of this testing is that the audiologist cannot determine how each ear is hearing individually, as the child is listening with both ears. Sometimes, testing will be completed utilizing headphones or earphones pending the child’s tolerance. This allows the audiologist to obtain information on how the right ear is hearing compared to the left ear.
Generally, children aged 3-5 years
Testing will likely be completed in a game like format. The audiologist will sit with the child and together they will play a game where they ask the child to listen for a sound and then play a portion of the game. The audiologist will likely also play words and ask the child to point to a corresponding picture. Practice trials will be completed at louder sound levels and with strong direction from the audiologist.
Generally, children aged 6+
Testing will be completed almost the same as it would be done for an adult. The child will be asked to raise their hand when they hear the beep and repeat back the words that the audiologist reads.
If you suspect that your child has a hearing loss please contact our office to schedule a complete hearing evaluation and consultation.