Updated: Dec 23, 2019
By Bushra Kassouma
To ensure a healthy start into life quite early, it is crucial to maintain the best practices for our beloved ones from a quite young age.
Early testing ensures that any problems are picked up and managed as early as possible.
At the Dr.Mulham Polyclinic, Hearing tests are offered to newborn babies and children, to identify any problems early on in their development.
Why are hearing tests important?
Hearing tests carried out soon after birth can help identify most babies with significant hearing loss. Testing later in childhood can pick up any problems that have been missed or have been slowly getting worse.
Without routine hearing tests, there's a chance that a hearing problem could go undiagnosed for many months or even years.
It's important to identify hearing problems as early as possible because they can affect your child's speech and language development, social skills and education.
Treatment is more effective if any problems are detected and managed early on. An early diagnosis will also help ensure you and your child have access to any special support services you may need.
When should my child's hearing be checked?
Your child's hearing shoud be checked:
· Within the first week of birth – this is known as newborn hearing screening and it's often carried out before you leave hospital after giving birth. This is routine for all children across hospitals in the UAE, however, if you have given birth outside of the UAE, check if this was performed and if not, this should be performed as soon as possible (check with our clinic for further details)
· From 9 months to 2.5 years of age – a child’s hearing should be tested again at this age, even if the child passed the initial hearing screening. This is due to temporary or permanent hearing impairments that may arise in this age.
· At around 8 to 10 years old – your child should again get their hearing checked at this age, to monitor their hearing throughout childhood.
In addition to the afore mentioned routine hearing screenings, a child’s hearing should be evaluated if he shows any signs of hearing loss, speech/language delay or pain/infections of the ears.
Newborn hearing screening
Newborn babies can be screened for any potential hearing problems using two quick and painless tests (called an OtoAcoustic Emission (OAE) and a screening Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)). The tests are normally conducted on the ward before you leave hospital.
Read more about newborn hearing screening.
Hearing tests for older babies and children
A number of different hearing tests may be used to check for hearing problems in older babies and young children. These are usually undertaken at an audiology department.
Some of the main tests that may be carried out are described on this page.
Visual reinforcement audiometry
Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) is usually used to test hearing in children from approximately 6 months of age up to 2.5 years old.
During the test, your child will sit on your lap or a chair while sounds are presented. Your baby will be taught to link the sound to a visual reward such as a toy or computer screen lighting up.
Once your child is able to associate the sound and the visual reward the volume and pitch of the sound will be varied to determine the quietest sounds your child is able to hear.
Young children between 1.5 and 5 years old may have a play audiometry test.
During the test, sounds will be played through headphones or speakers and your child will be asked to perform a simple task when they hear the sound. This may vary from putting a ball in a bucket to completing a puzzle.
As with VRA, the volume and pitch of the sound will be varied to determine the quietest sounds your child is able to hear.
Pure tone audiometry
Older children may have a test called pure tone audiometry. This is the test often used to screen a child's hearing before they start school, when it is sometimes referred to as the "sweep test". It's similar to a hearing test an adult might have.
During pure tone audiometry, a machine generates sounds at different volumes and frequencies. The sounds are played through headphones and your child is asked to respond when they hear them by pressing a button.
By changing the level of the sound, the tester can work out the quietest sounds your child can hear.
Bone conduction test
In addition to using speakers or headphones, most of the tests above can also be carried out using a small vibrating device placed behind the ear.
This device passes sound directly to the inner ear through the bones in the head, which can help identify which part of the ear isn't working properly if your child is having hearing problems.
Tympanometry is a test to assess how flexible the eardrum is.
For good hearing, your eardrum needs to be flexible to allow sound to pass through it. If the eardrum is too rigid – for example, because there is fluid behind it (glue ear) – sounds will bounce back off the eardrum instead of passing through it.
During the test, a soft rubber tube will be placed at the entrance of your child's ear. Air is gently blown down the tube and a sound is played through a small speaker inside it. The tube then measures the sound that's bounced back from the ear.
Causes of hearing problems in babies and children
There are a number of reasons why a child may have a hearing problem, including temporary hearing loss from a common illness such as a cold.
Some possible causes of hearing loss that may be detected during routine tests include:
· glue ear – a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which is common in young children.
To book your appointment with our specialist Bushra Kassouma, Please visit our clinic or contact us for more details.
Telephone: +971 4 255 1710
Telephone: +971 4 255 1765
Whatsapp: +971 55 381 3333
714 - 717, Al Hudaiba Awards Building
Block B, Jumeirah