Most children hear and listen to sounds from birth. The most important time for a child to learn language is within the first 3 years of life. Your baby actually begins to develop speech and language skills during the first 6 months of life by listening and imitating the speech sounds they hear as you are talking to them.
About 2 or 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of- hearing. Children born with a hearing loss do not have the same opportunity to hear sounds around them and develop early language skills, so it is important to detect and identify a hearing loss as early as possible.
In Ohio, all newborns complete a hearing screening before leaving the birthing hospital. If your baby does not pass the hospital screening, you will be referred to a pediatric diagnostic center, like Columbus Speech & Hearing Center for a more thorough hearing evaluation. This testing should be completed before your baby is 3 months old. During the evaluation, three different tests will be used. The tests must be completed while your baby is asleep or very still:
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
– An ABR tests how the auditory or hearing nerve carries sound from the ear to the brain. The test is performed by placing four small electrodes on your baby’s head to detect responses and sounds are played through small, soft eartips that are placed in the baby’s ear canals.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
– An OAE tests if the inner ear is responding appropriately to sound. A small, sponge earphone is inserted into your baby’s ear canal and a series of sounds are emitted to measure an “echo” response that occurs in normal hearing ears.
– An immittance test checks to make sure the eardrum and bones in the middle ear are moving normally by placing a soft tip in the ear canal with small changes of pressure in the ear canal. We will ask you to bring your baby to their appointment ready for a feeding and a nap. By depriving your baby of nap time before the test, most babies will sleep through the testing.
The tests are completed in a quiet room. Your child may be held in your arms or lie in an infant carrier during the test. ABR testing must be completed while your child is asleep or is very relaxed and still to ensure that the baby’s movements do not interfere with the test.
Once the testing has been completed, the audiologist will review and interpret your child’s test results and contact you within two business days with the results of your child’s evaluation.
Comprehensive Hearing Evaluations
A comprehensive hearing test is comprised of several parts, including:
Air conduction testing includes listening to tones of different frequencies under earphones and finding the lowest possible volume of detection for each frequency tone. Air conduction is testing the entire hearing mechanism from the outer, middle to inner part of the ear.
Bone conduction is tested through a bone oscillator that is placed behind the ear on the mastoid bone or on the forehead of the patient. This transfers sound directly into the inner ear. Bone conduction will evaluate how just the inner ear is working as opposed to the entire hearing system.
Word recognition ability testing is the ability to understand words at a comfortable loudness level. If someone has a hearing loss, sometimes they can hear the words or sounds at a comfortable level, but cannot understand what is being said.
At the conclusion of this test, the audiologist will discuss the results with you and determine if a hearing loss is present. If you do have a hearing loss, the type of loss will be identified to you.