WHAT IS HEARING LOSS?
In normal hearing, sound waves travel into the ear and cause the eardrum to vibrate. The vibration helps trigger nerves that send sound information to the brain. The brain then translates these waves into sound that a person can interprets and understand.
Hearing loss occurs when there are problems in the structural part of the ear, the nerves within the ear, or the section of the brain that controls hearing. There are three primary types of hearing loss:
- Conductive – Conductive hearing loss is the result of blocked sound transmission in the ear. It most often occurs in infants and toddlers due to infections or fluid in the ear. This type of hearing loss is typically mild, temporary, and highly treatable.
- Sensorineurual – Sensorineurual hearing loss is the result of structural problems in the ear and/or with nerves that control hearing. It can be congenital (present at birth) or occur later in life. Sensorineurual hearing loss is often permanent. It ranges from mild (“hard of hearing” some sounds) to profound (inability to hear any sound).
- Mixed – Mixed hearing loss is a hybrid of conductive and sensorineurual hearing loss.
The Warren Center offers a range of therapy services for children with audio impairment. These may include speech therapists, individual specialists, and support groups. For more information, contact us.
How is Hearing Tested?
Hearing tests detect signs of audio impairment in infants, toddlers, and young children. These tests are important since hearing plays a critical role in spoken language development. Hearing tests help identify problems to ensure that your child gets the appropriate help for hearing loss or related communication disorders.
When Should My Child Get a Hearing Test?
Children should get routine hearing tests during health checkups. Newborns receive hearing tests before leaving the hospital. If the baby does not pass the test, doctors usually recommend a retest within three months.
Toddlers and young child get hearing tests that can also include checks for excess earwax, fluid, or infections. Some pediatric centers use synonyms for hearing tests that include audiometry exams, audiography tests, audiogram tests, or sound tests.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children always undergo a complete hearing exam at ages 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10. You can also request a hearing test if you believe your child demonstrates signs of hearing loss.
What are the Different Types of Hearing Tests?
Hearing test can vary based on age and symptoms. Tests for babies and toddlers might involve probes that measure hearing and do not need a verbal response. Exams for older children include sound tests that require a response to noises of different volume and pitch.
There are two types of professionals authorized to test and treat hearing loss:
- Audiologists – Health care providers trained to assess, diagnose, manage, and treat hearing loss
- Otolaryngologists (ENTs) – Physicians who treat problems in the ears, nose, and throat
Some of the most common hearing tests include the following:
- Auditory Brainstorm (ABR) – The ABR uses electrodes to test for sensorineural hearing loss in newborns and infants.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) – The OAE uses probes to check for general hearing loss in infants and young children.
- Tympanometry – A tympanometry checks how well the eardrum moves. Since the requires a person to sit very still, it usually works best for older children, preteens, and teens.
- Acoustic Reflex Measures or Middle Ear Muscle Reflex (MEMR) – The MEMR test checks how well the middle-ear muscle responds to loud sounds.
- Pure-Tone or Audiometry – This test determines the quietest sounds a person can hear at different pitch levels.
- Tuning Fork – This test uses a two-pronged metal device to determine whether there is conductive or sensorineural hearing loss in one or both ears.
- Speech and Word Recognition – This exam assesses how well your child can hear and respond to spoken language.
SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS
What are the Signs of Hearing Loss?
Signs of hearing loss can vary slightly depending on your child’s age group.
Signs of hearing loss in infants:
- Showing no reaction to loud noises
- Expressing no reaction to a parent’s voice by three months old
- Not turning head toward sounds by six months old
- Not imitating sounds or saying basic words by 12 months old
Signs of hearing loss in toddlers:
- Delayed speech that is difficult to understand (most toddlers say “dada” or “mama” by 15 months old)
- No reaction or response when called by name
- Not paying attention to conversation or noise
Signs of hearing loss in older children or teens:
- Difficulty hearing people in noisy environments
- Trouble hearing higher-pitched sounds
- Having to always turn up the volume on television
- Complaints of ringing sound in ears
WHAT DO RESULTS MEAN?
What Do Hearing Test Results Mean?
Hearing tests can tell you whether your child has hearing loss and whether the category is conductive or sensorineural. For conductive hearing loss, your health care provider might recommend medicine or surgery (depending on cause and severity). With sensorineural hearing loss, you will usually receive a further indication of severity:
- Mild – inability to hear some types of sounds, such as tones that are very high or very low
- Moderate – inability to hear a range of sounds, such as people speaking in a noisy environment
- Severe – inability to hear most sounds
- Profound – inability to hear any sound at all
For sensorineural hearing loss, you should confer directly with the health care provider to determine a comprehensive treatment and management plan.
What Treatments Might Be Available for Hearing Loss?
Even in difficult cases, there can be ways to manage childhood hearing loss. Some common treatment options include the following:
- Hearing Aid – A device worn behind or inside the ear to amplify sound
- Cochlear Implant – A surgical implant used to send sound waves directly to the hearing nerve
- Surgery – These procedures can help address problems with the eardrums or complex bones within the ear.