There are many ways to test your child’s hearing. The audiologist will perform the type of test that is most appropriate for your child’s age or developmental readiness.
Early intervention is extremely helpful in helping your child manage their hearing loss as soon as possible. An audiologist can perform hearing tests for children as young as newborns to help identify and address hearing loss from a very early age.
Birth to 6 months
Auditory Brainstem Response Test (ABR)
This is a test that measures how your child’s brain responds to sound because they are too young to tell us using other tests. Your child will need to sleep for this test. To help prepare them to sleep, we ask that you be sure they haven’t just napped before their appointment and try to plan their feeding when you arrive.
You will be able to hold your child during the test. The audiologist will rub an area on the forehead and behind each ear with a small pad. Small electrodes will be placed in those areas. The electrodes pick up the brain’s response to sound. We use small earphones to send the sounds to your child’s ears.
The audiologist will be looking at waveforms that happen when your child’s brain receives the sound. They will be able to tell you about your child’s hearing once all the testing is completed.
Sometimes older children need this test too. If children can't fall asleep on their own for testing, the test may be scheduled with sedation or along with any other procedures your child may be having at Children’s Mercy.
6 months to 2 years
Visual Reinforcement Audiometry
This hearing test is done in the sound booth. Your child will be taught to listen to sounds and respond by turning toward the sound, which is either coming from a speaker in the room or from earphones your child will wear. Your child is rewarded for responding with an animated toy that lights up near the speaker. This reward keeps the test fun for your child and helps the audiologist get the information they need. Your child will be tested while sitting in your lap or on their own as they are older.
2 years to 4 years
Conditioned Play Audiometry
By this age, many children understand how to respond to sound by doing a task every time they hear a sound. They may drop a block in a bucket, put a peg in a pegboard, stack blocks, or respond using an iPad with a program called HearPlay which makes this a fun game. HearPlay is an app that was developed by an audiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
4 years and older
Your child is taught to push a button, clap their hands, or raise their hand when they hear a sound, much like an adult would during their hearing test.
There are other tests that are given to help us know how your child is hearing. These may be done during any of the other types of hearing tests.
This test measures how well your child’s eardrums are moving and tells us if there is any stuffiness in the ear that might be causing your child a hearing problem. A small probe that we often call our “ear camera” is placed in the ear canal. The test doesn’t hurt, but sometimes children don’t like their ears being touched. We call it a camera so we can make an “ear picture” and make it fun. This test should only take a few seconds for each ear.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
This test measures how your child’s inner ear is working without them telling us. We often do this test with other tests to help us know more about your child’s hearing. A small probe with a soft ear tip is placed in your child’s ear for this test. They hear sounds and their ear tells us about how the sound was heard. The test only takes a couple of minutes on each ear to complete. Your child must allow the probe to be placed in their ear. It’s not painful, but if your child doesn’t like their ears being touched, they may not like this test.