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Hearing assessments

Your child will be seen by one or two members of audiology team. The appointment time varies depending on a number of factors including age. None of the tests are invasive and the majority of children really enjoy their visit to the Children's Hearing Centre. We will discuss the results with you at the end of your child's appointment. We aim to see you on time but occasionally clinics may be delayed due to factors beyond our control.

Before we test your child's hearing we will ask questions regarding:

  • any concerns you may have about your child's hearing or speech
  • medical history
  • other issues relating to their development
  • any family history of hearing problems

Testing your child's hearing

We use a range of different tests to assess children's hearing depending on their age and general development. For babies these involve automatic tests and your baby needs to be  asleep during  this appointment. Children developmentally older than 8 months and able to sit unsupported will have a  test which  involves getting them to respond to sound in some way either through  watching for changes in behaviour in response to sounds or playing a game involving sounds. Your child needs to be awake and alert for these tests. In addition we can perform a quick, painless test of middle ear function to help identify the presence  middle ear congestion, eustachian tune function,  perforations and blockages in the ear canal due to wax.

Hearing tests for babies                   

Babies who are referred from the newborn hearing screen will be seen at the Children's Hearing Centre for more detailed diagnostic testing. One of the tests involves putting a soft tipped ear piece in your baby's ear. This sends a clicking sound into the ear and measuring a response. The other test involves putting small sensors on your baby's head, playing sounds through headphones and measuring the response on a computer. See the Newborn hearing screening page of our website  for further information.

Hearing tests for children from about 8 months old

When your baby is able to sit unsupported and turn their head we are able to make sounds through speakers and/or different types of earphones. We use toys with lights in the cabinet to reward them for responding. 

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Hearing tests for children from approximately 2½ years old

When your child is aged 2 ½ years old or over, we will teach them to play a game requiring co-operation. For example, putting a person in a boat, or a peg in a board when they hear a sound.

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Hearing tests for children from approximately 3½ years old

When your child is around 3½ years of age, we will use headphones to test their hearing and ask them to put a peg in the board or another similar game when they hear a sound.  For older children, we will ask them to press a button in response to the sound.

We may also perform a speech test to check your child's understanding of speech. For young children this may involve asking them to point to different toys. For older children, we may ask them to repeat single words or sentences.

What does the hearing test measure?

A hearing test measures how the outer, middle and inner ear respond to sound across a range of sound frequencies (also known as pitch). We focus on the frequencies important for speech and language development.

We may use a variety of different ways of playing sounds to your child. We may use loud speakers, headphones or a bone vibrator. Each of these allows us to test different parts of your child's ear and hearing system.

We plot the quietest sound your child can hear (known as hearing threshold) at each frequency (pitch) of sound on a graph called an audiogram. This will allow us to record how well your child can hear. We can give you a copy of your child's audiogram if you would like.

Otoscopy and Tympanometry

We will look in your child's ears (otoscopy) and takes measurements from the eardrum (tympanometry). These help in identifying middle ear congestion, perforations, wax blockages all  of which may affect your child's hearing and comfort.

What happens next?

We will discuss the results of the hearing test with you at the end of the appointment.

  • If your child's hearing is satisfactory, they will be discharged and we will send a letter back to the person who referred your child explaining the test results
  • We may not be able to complete the full hearing test in one session, in which case we will arrange a review appointment to continue the test
  • If your child has a hearing loss we will arrange a review appointment and we will discuss this with you at the time. The most common cause of hearing loss in children is glue ear, or otitis media with effusion.
  • If your child has a sensorineural (permanent) hearing loss we will arrange a review appointment to repeat the test and discuss management options.