HealthLink BC File #71b, June 2011
Hearing Tests for Children
- What routine screening will my baby receive?
- What can I do if I think my child has hearing loss?
- What hearing tests will my child receive?
- Is hearing loss temporary or permanent?
Children start to learn speech and language from the moment they are born. If your child can not hear well, he or she may have trouble developing language skills and learning to talk.
Hearing plays an important role in the social and emotional development of children. It is important to recognize early the signs of hearing loss to prevent or lessen any concerns.
What routine screening will my baby receive?
Hearing tests are important for newborn babies and families because much can be done if hearing loss is caught early in life.
About 1 in 300 babies has hearing loss. In B.C., all babies have their hearing screened through the BC Early Hearing Program. Your baby's hearing screening may happen in the hospital before you go home or in your community soon after birth. If your baby did not receive screening, contact your local public health unit.
Hearing screening is very safe, and it will not hurt your baby. Soft sounds are played in your baby's ears, while a computer measures the responses.
What can I do if I think my child has hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be hard to detect. Mild hearing loss is sometimes mistaken for other concerns, and it may cause a child to appear distracted or withdrawn. Parents are usually the first to know if there is a concern.
If you have concerns about your child's hearing, contact your local public health hearing clinic or your family doctor. See your doctor right away if your child has any of the following:
- ear discharge (runny ear)
- earache (pain in the ear)
- bad smell from the ear canal
- reddened skin around the ear
- an object in the ear canal
What hearing tests will my child receive?
Tests for infants and toddlers
- Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA)
This test is used typically for infants over 6 months of age. This test checks your baby's natural head turn to look for the source of sounds. Your baby is taught to turn to sounds using toys that light up.
- Conditioned Play Audiometry
This test is used typically for toddlers over 3 years of age. Your child is taught to play a game, such as put a peg into a peg board, every time they hear a sound.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
A child needs to be asleep to do this test. Sounds are presented to the ears using small earphones. Small sensors are placed behind each ear and on the forehead to measure response from the hearing nerve. The test can be done in natural sleep or with the use of a mild sedative if necessary.
Tests for children 4 years of age and older
- Pure Tone Audiometry
Your child responds to sounds by raising a hand or pressing a button. Sounds at different volumes and pitches are presented through headphones.
- Speech Audiometry
Your child will either repeat words or point to pictures. This testing together with pure tone audiometry gives a more complete picture of your child's hearing.
Tests for all ages
This test measures the movement of the eardrum and detects fluid in the middle ear.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (called OAE)
A small soft tipped earpiece is placed in the outer part of the ear. Sounds are sent into the ear. When the ear receives the sounds, the inner part known as the cochlea makes a response called an Otoacoustic emission which can be measured. Present emissions usually mean good hearing.
Is hearing loss temporary or permanent?
Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Temporary loss is often called conductive, and permanent hearing loss is called sensorineural. Most hearing loss in young children is temporary or medically treatable.
A test by an audiologist will determine what type of hearing loss your child has. An audiologist is a person who has special training in hearing testing and treatment.
For more HealthLinkBC File topics, visit www.HealthLinkBC.ca/healthfiles/ or your local public health unit.
Click on www.HealthLinkBC.ca or call 8-1-1 for non-emergency health information and services in B.C.
For deaf and hearing-impaired assistance, call 7-1-1 in B.C.
Translation services are available in more than 130 languages on request.