Hearing Tests for Children at Camino ENT

Here are some commonly asked questions for parents preparing to have their child’s hearing tested.

Pediatric Hearing Test FAQs

My child is still an infant! How can you measure whether he or she is hearing?

Although infants cannot give a behavioral response of “I can hear that!” audiologists can complete objective tests that do not require the infant to respond or even be awake! The audiologist looks into the ears to make sure the canals are clear. Tympanometry and otoacoustic emissions are two objective tests that give the audiologist and physician information about the child’s middle and inner ears, respectively. Tympanometry can show whether the infant has fluid behind the eardrum or if an infection is present. Otoacoustic emissions can be recorded as long as the infant is relatively quiet or sleeping. These emissions, if present, can indicate that the child’s inner ears are functioning normally. These results cannot determine how the child is processing sound however.

Sometimes, behavioral results can be obtained for infants using Behavioral Observation Audiometry (BOA). The parent is seated while holding or feeding the infant in the sound booth. Sounds are played by the audiologist through the speaker. An audiologist assistant sits near the infant, observing any change in response to the onset of sound. Responses can include eye widening or eyebrow furrowing. If the infant is being fed with a bottle, changes in sucking patterns can be noted. Also, the infant may smile, frown or cry in response to sound. These observations can give the audiologist a general sense of whether the child is hearing. Starting at around 6 months of age (developmentally), behavioral thresholds can be attempted.

Can you really test my toddler/child’s hearing?

For children approximately 6 months to 3 years of age: The child is placed in a parent or guardian’s lap in the sound booth. If the child tolerates insert earphones or headphones, these are placed. If the child does not tolerate earphones, sounds can still be delivered through a speaker. When the child hears the sound, he or she is trained by an audiology assistant to look at a video screen with a short cartoon animation. The child is distracted by the audiology assistant in between sound presentations. The audiologist can also use speech or music to elicit awareness responses from the child. For slightly older children (ages 2-3), a picture board is shown to the child with colorful images of objects such as “airplane”, “rainbow”, “fire truck” and “sunshine”. The child is asked to point to the picture when he or she recognizes the word.

For children approximately 3 to 6 years of age: The child is asked to sit at a small table in the sound booth. A parent or guardian may sit in the booth behind the child or with the child on their lap. The audiology assistant is seated facing the child. If the child tolerates insert earphones or headphones, these are placed. If the child does not tolerate headphones, sounds can be delivered through a speaker. When the child hears a sound, he or she is trained by the audiology assistant using a toy or game. Usually, the child holds onto a colorful plastic ball until they hear the sound, then throws the ball into a bucket. The child can complete the same activity with wooden puzzle pieces or blocks.

Children approximately 6 years of age or older: The child is asked to sit in the sound booth. Insert earphones or headphones are placed. The child is asked to raise his or her hand when a sound is heard, even a very soft sound. Children are usually able to complete this task relatively easily and the task can be altered for children with shorter attention spans.

What can I do to prepare my child for a hearing test?

Parents and family members can play an important role in preparing the child for a hearing test. Touch, tickle or play with the child’s ears to let them know that it’s okay for someone to touch the ears. It’s a good idea to practice having the child wear toy headphones to help familiarize them with something on their head. It can also be helpful for the adult to wear headphones to show the child that it doesn’t hurt!

Make listening fun! When the child responds to a sound, give a small reward to the child, such as being able to place a puzzle piece on a board or stack blocks/Lego’s. Even if the child is not “prepared” for the hearing test, children usually respond well to the task at hand. It is not uncommon to have several appointments before a full hearing test is completed, as children can quickly become tired or disinterested in the task. The audiologist will talk with the family about the appropriate follow-up if only part of the hearing test can be completed at the first visit.

What information will the audiologist need when I bring my child for the hearing test?

These are some questions the audiologist may ask when your child is seen for a hearing test:

  • Are you concerned about your child’s hearing?
  • Is there any family history of hearing loss?
  • Where was your child born?
  • Were there any complications during the pregnancy?
  • Were there any complications during the birth and delivery?
  • Did your child stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at any point?
  • Did your child have a Newborn Hearing Screening? If so, do you recall these results (usually Pass or Fail) for each ear?
  • Has your child had any ear infections? If so, how many and how were they treated by the physician?

Questions may also be asked about:

  • Speech and language development
  • Presence of other disabilities
  • Health history
  • Recognition and response to familiar sounds
  • Response to loud sounds (startle response)
  • Previous hearing test results