Types of Hearing Evaluations
At The Emerge Center, all evaluations are performed by a licensed audiologist. Hearing tests for children take approximately an hour and can include some or all of the following tests.
This is a visual examination of your child’s ears to check for signs of the following issues:
- Wax buildup: Ear wax protects the ear canal from infection. Over time, it can build up and be pushed back toward the ear drum. This, in turn, can cause a decrease in your child’s hearing.
- Ear infections: Ear infections are generally caused by a cold, infection or allergies which can trap fluids in the middle ear area. Like ear wax, it can impact your child’s ability to hear clearly.
- Fluid buildup: It’s not uncommon for fluid to sometimes build up behind a child’s eardrums. This is often caused by blockage of the tube that connects the middle ear and throat. When fluid in this area doesn’t drain properly, it can lead to slight hearing loss, discomfort and, if untreated, possibly infection.
- Ear pressure: Normally, the air pressure inside the middle ear area is the same as outside. Sometimes, however, allergies, a cold or an infection can create a slight bulge or dip in the eardrum. This is a sign of a possible issue with ear pressure and can result in a slight hearing loss.
This process involves checking ear drum movement. A probe or ear bud (like an earphone) is inserted into your child’s ear. The probe will remain in child’s ear canal for approximately three seconds. It is best if child is able to sit still or stand without moving during the duration of the test. The resulting “picture” tells us if the middle ear is all clear, has fluid, or has pressure buildup.
Play Audiometry involves your child responding to a series of sound beeps of varying volume and pitch levels. Younger children (3- and 4-year olds) are generally asked to put a toy in a bucket when he/she hears a beep. Older children (5+ years old) should be able to respond by raising their hands. Ultimately, which method of response will depend on the cognition level of the child and if he/she understands the task.
Speech Recognition Testing
For this test, the audiologist speaks simple words to your child and asks him or her to repeat them back. The words will vary in volume from loud to soft and back to loud to measure the softest level your child will respond to.
For children who are not able to reply by saying the words, an alternative test featuring pictures is used. For example, we might show a picture of stairs with the word “stairs” next to it along with other words that sound like stairs (chair, dare, pair). Young children may be asked to identify body parts such as eye, nose and mouth if they are unable to respond vocally.
The goal of each test is to determine the softest level your child hears the word and responds to it.
Pure Tone Testing
This test is the “big kid” version of play audiometry. It is used to determine your child’s ability to hear sounds at various pitches. Children are asked to raise their hands when they hear the beep sound.
Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emission (DPOAE)
For this test, an ear probe is used to stimulate the cochlea (the sensory organ for hearing that’s located in the inner ear) simultaneously by two pure tones. This is also commonly used in hospitals for newborn hearing screenings, or when children are unable to respond to pure tone testing.
Visual Reinforced Audiometry (VRA)
A sound is broadcasted through a speaker from one side and the child (6 months) reacts by turning toward the sound. The audiologist then lights up a toy to reinforce that the child responded correctly. We’ll then present another sound at a lower level and repeat the process. If a child doesn’t respond to sounds, the audiologist will gradually increase the volume until he or she does respond. The audiologist may also speak the child’s name as an alternative.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) Testing
Auditory Processing Disorder is a deficiency in the perceptual processing of auditory information in the central nervous system. Children with APD show symptoms that mimic hearing loss, and it is often confused with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and other disorders. APD is demonstrated by one or more of the following challenges:
- difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments
- difficulty following directions
- difficulty telling the difference between similar speech sounds
- frequently asking for repetition or clarification
To diagnose APD, our audiologist will conduct a series of tests requiring the child to respond by repeating a word, pressing a button, or performing a similar task. Other tests to measure the way a child’s brain responds to sounds may also be administered. Typically, a child must be 7 or 8 years old to be tested for APD.
Hearing Loss Diagnoses
Using the results from the various tests, our audiologist then pieces together a blueprint of your child’s hearing. Are both ears the same? Is it typical hearing loss due to noise? Are the results typical of someone with middle ear dysfunction?
With answers to those and many other questions, our audiologist is then able to identify an accurate diagnosis and recommend an effective course of treatment.