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Hearing is critical in the first few years of life for social emotional and cognitive development. An untreated hearing loss can cause permanent language delays and learning disabilities. Even a mild or partial hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to speak and understand language. The good news is, hearing problems can be treated if they’re caught early. So it’s important to get your child’s hearing screened early and evaluated regularly. The pediatric audiology staff at Metro Hearing has been specially trained to diagnose and treat hearing loss in children age four and above.
Hearing loss is a common birth defect, affecting about 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 babies. A number of factors can lead to hearing loss, and about half the time, no cause is found.
Some of the main factors are:
Several methods can be used to test a child’s hearing, depending on the child’s age, development, or health status.
This involves careful observation of a child’s behavioral response to sounds like speech and pure tones. Pure tones are the distinct pitches (frequencies) of sounds. A child is usually seated with a parent in a sound treated room.
The behavioral response might be an infant’s eye movements, a head-turn by a toddler, placement of a game piece by a preschooler, or a hand-raise by a gradeschooler. Speech responses may involve picture identification of a word or repeating words at soft or comfortable levels. Even very young children are capable of a number of behavioral tests.
This brief test is performed by placing a tiny probe in the ear canal, then many pulse-type sounds are introduced and an “echo” response from the outer hair cells in the inner ear is recorded. These recordings are averaged by a computer. A normal recording is associated with healthy outer hair cell function and reflects normal hearing, although in some cases the hearing loss may be due to problems in other parts of the hearing pathway.
ABR or OAE tests are used at hospitals to screen newborns. If a baby fails a screening, the test is usually repeated. If the screening is failed again, the baby is referred for full hearing evaluation.
Tympanometry is not a hearing test but a procedure that can show how well the eardrum moves when a soft sound and air pressure are introduced in the ear canal. It’s helpful in identifying middle ear problems, such as fluid collecting behind the eardrum.