Hearing Tests: About Your Child's Tests

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What are they?

The parts of the ear

Hearing tests check how well your child hears. There are many types of hearing tests. Your hearing specialist (audiologist) may use one or more tests, depending on your child's age and the problem.

Why are these tests done?

Your child may have hearing tests as a newborn in the hospital or as part of a routine checkup, or because you believe your child may have a hearing problem. The tests may also be used to find the type of hearing loss your child has and how severe it may be.

How can you prepare for the tests?

  • Be sure that your child is not exposed to loud noises for 16 hours before these tests.

What happens before the tests?

Tell the specialist if:

  • Your child has recently been exposed to any painfully loud noise or to a noise that made his or her ears ring.
  • Your child is often exposed to loud noises.
  • Your child is taking or has taken antibiotics or other medicines that could affect hearing.
  • Your child has recently had a cold or ear infection.
  • You've noticed signs of hearing loss in your child.
  • You have family members who have hearing loss.

Before beginning any hearing tests, the hearing specialist may check your child's ear canals for earwax and remove any hardened wax. The wax can make it hard for your child to hear the tones or words used during testing.

For some tests, your child will need to wear headphones. If your child needs these tests, he or she will need to remove eyeglasses, earrings, or hair clips that may get in the way of the headphones. Your child may have a thin plastic tube placed in the ear canal to keep it open. The headphones are then placed on your child's head and adjusted to fit.

What happens during the tests?

Auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing

Auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing finds hearing loss caused by a problem in the inner ear, in the nerve that allows your child to hear, or in the brain. In this test, electrodes are taped to your child's scalp and on each earlobe. Clicking noises are then sent through earphones. The electrodes monitor the brain's response to the clicking noises and record the response on a graph.

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing is often used to test newborns for hearing problems. For this test, a small, soft microphone is placed in your baby's ear canal. Then a small probe that bends easily is placed in your child's ear to play sounds. The microphone detects the inner ear's response to the sound.

Conditioned orienting responses (COR) or visually reinforced audiometry (VRA)

These tests are used to check younger children. A sound is played toward the child through loud speakers. The child looks toward the sound to show that he or she hears it. The child is rewarded by seeing a toy on the speaker move or a light go on.

Tuning fork tests

Tuning fork tests check how well sound moves through your child's ear. The tuning fork is struck to make it vibrate and produce a tone. Sometimes the tuning fork will be placed on your child's head or behind your child's ear. Depending on how your child hears the sound, the specialist can tell if there is a problem with the nerves or with sound getting to the nerves.

Audiometry tests

These tests check how well your child can hear.

In pure tone audiometry, a machine called an audiometer plays a series of tones through headphones. The tones change in pitch and loudness. The person giving the test will reduce the loudness of a tone until your child can no longer hear it. Then the tone will get louder until your child can hear it again. If your child can hear the tone, he or she will signal by raising a hand or pressing a button. The test will be repeated using a higher-pitched tone each time. Each ear is tested separately.

The headphones will then be removed. A special vibrating device will be placed on the bone behind your child's ear. Again, your child will signal each time he or she hears a tone.

In play audiometry, the child responds to the tone he or she hears by a play activity, such as dropping a block or putting a toy in a container.

Speech reception and word recognition tests

These tests measure how well your child hears and understands normal conversation. In these tests, your child hears a series of simple words spoken with different degrees of loudness. He or she is asked to repeat the words. The specialist measures the level at which your child can no longer hear the words well enough to repeat them.

Tympanometry

This test measures how flexible the eardrum is and how easily it vibrates and sends sound through the inner ear. It is often used to check for fluid in the middle ear. The soft tip of a small instrument is placed into your child's ear canal and is adjusted to get a tight seal. Sound and air pressure are then directed toward the eardrum. The test is not painful, but your child may feel a slight change in pressure.

How long the tests take depends on which tests are done. They usually take about 1 hour.

What happens after the test?

  • Your child will probably be able to go home right away.
  • Your child can go back to his or her usual activities right away.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if your child has any problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines your child takes. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: July 29, 2016