How often should I have my child’s hearing tested?
This is normally a hearing screening done in the hospital at birth, as soon as 24 hours after birth. Hearing is tested by measuring the OAE’s (otoacoustic emissions) which are echo responses from the cochlea (inner ear). If the cochlea gives off strong emissions, it is assumed that the cochlea is functioning well.
This, however is not a true test of hearing and is also not sensitive enough to identify mild hearing loss. It should always be followed up by a diagnostic test when your child is old enough.
It is recommended that every child has a hearing screening test at birth. If hearing screening was not offered when your child was born, then it is strongly recommended that you visit an audiologist to have a diagnostic or screening OAE. No age is too young!
At 1 year
At this age your child should start producing one word utterances, and following simple instructions. Hearing should be retested at this age, as your child is now able to give more behavioural responses to sound.
Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) is used at this age. It can be carried out as soon as your child is able to sit with head control for some time. A localising head turn response to sounds produced via speakers in a sound proof booth, is reinforced by flashing toys.
The diagnostic OAE test (as above) is also likely to be repeated at this stage, while your child sits quietly, to give the audiologist more information. Middle ear pressure can also be measured using tympanometry, to monitor for middle ear infection.
At 3 years
As your child enters preschool and starts learning more complex forms of language, they should now be stringing short sentences together. They should be largely intelligible to both family members and strangers.
By this age your child can start responding more accurately to behavioural hearing tests. Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) combined with play audiometry is generally used at this age to test your child’s hearing.
Tympanometry (middle ear pressure tests) as well as OAE testing may be repeated if behavioural responses do not give enough information.
At 5 years
By five years of age your child can attend for longer and give behavioural responses that are more accurate. A full diagnostic hearing test is normally carried out. Results tend to be more specific to the pitch and intensities of your child’s hearing thresholds.
It is important that your child’s hearing is retested at this stage, before they start school to ensure that normal hearing allows your child the optimum learning capacity.
Submitted by Tanya Durrant (Audiologist)
Sandton Hearing & Balance, Sandton Medi-Clinic, (011) 463 4639
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