Types of Hearing Tests for Babies and Children
What are the different types of hearing tests?
As part of a hearing evaluation, your child's healthcare provider will do a complete
health history and exam. In addition, there are many different types of hearing tests. Some
of them may be used on children of all ages. Others are used based on your child's
age and level of understanding.
Hearing tests for a newborn baby
There are 2 main types of hearing screening methods for newborns. These may be used
alone or together:
Evoked otoacoustic emissions (EOAE). A test that uses a tiny, flexible plug that is put into the baby's ear. Sounds are
sent through the plug. A microphone in the plug records the otoacoustic responses
(emissions) of the normal ear in reaction to the sounds. There are no emissions in
a baby with hearing loss. This test is painless and often takes just a few minutes.
It is done while the baby sleeps.
Auditory brainstem response (ABR). A test that uses wires (electrodes) attached with adhesive to the baby's scalp. While
the baby sleeps, clicking sounds are made through tiny earphones in the baby's ears.
The test measures the brain's activity in response to the sounds. As in EOAE, this
test is painless and takes only a few minutes.
If the screening tests finds that your child has a hearing loss, more testing is needed.
Babies with hearing loss should be identified by age 3 months. Then treatment can
begin before the baby is 6 months old, an important time for speech and language development.
Hearing tests for a baby
A baby's hearing evaluation may include the EOAE and ABR tests above. This test may
also be used:
Hearing tests for a toddler
A toddler's hearing assessment may include the tests mentioned above, along with these:
Play audiometry. A test that uses an electrical machine to send sounds at different volumes and pitches
into your child's ears. The child often wears some type of earphones. This test is
changed slightly in the toddler age group and made into a game. The toddler is asked
to do something with a toy (such as touch or move a toy) every time the sound is heard.
This test relies on the child's cooperation, which may not always be possible.
Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA). A test where the child is trained to look toward a sound source. When the child gives
a correct response, the child is rewarded through a visual reinforcement. This may
be a toy that moves or a flashing light. The test is most often used for children
between 6 months to 2 years old.
Hearing tests for an older child
A hearing evaluation for a child older than age 3 to 4 may include the tests mentioned
above, along with these:
Pure tone audiometry. A test that uses an electrical machine that makes sounds at different volumes and
pitches in your child's ears. The child often wears some type of earphones. In this
age group, the child is simply asked to respond in some way when the tone is heard
in the earphone.
Tympanometry (impedance audiometry). A test that can be done in most healthcare providers' offices to help find out how
the middle ear is working. It does not tell if the child is hearing or not. But it
helps to find any changes in pressure in the middle ear. This is a hard test to do
in younger children because the child needs to sit very still and not be crying, talking,