Tenterfield Star

Identifying the need for a hearing test in your child

Here are some common signs that might indicate your child needs a hearing test. Picture Shutterstock
Here are some common signs that might indicate your child needs a hearing test. Picture Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Hear and Say.

Hearing, albeit often overlooked, plays a crucial role in our daily lives, more so in the growth and development of our children. It is instrumental in shaping a child's cognitive and social evolution; hence, any signs of hearing impairment should be promptly attended to.

The timely detection of hearing loss can significantly influence a child's development of language and speech skills.

However, many parents are unaware of the indicators of hearing loss in their children. Certain common signs may go unnoticed or be dismissed as insignificant, thereby delaying necessary intervention. If you're uncertain about the symptoms to watch out for, we've compiled a list of four common indicators that may suggest your child could benefit from a hearing test with a professional audiologist.

If you ever need to bring your child to an audiologist, Hear & Say is an amazing network of pediatric hearing experts, who offer a range of services from diagnosis to intervention. Here are some common signs that might indicate your child needs a hearing test:

Unresponsiveness to loud ambient sounds

One commonly observed sign that your child may need a hearing test is their lack of response to loud background noises. A healthy newborn without hearing impairments typically exhibits reactions to sudden, loud sounds such as the barking of a dog, a door being slammed, or an item falling and hitting the floor. These reactions can be as simple as a startle reflex, or the baby abruptly waking from sleep.

Parents should keep a close eye on this behaviour as the child grows into a toddler and then a young child. If over time you notice that your child is progressively showing fewer reactions, or no reaction at all, to these loud and sudden sounds, it may be indicative of potential hearing loss. In such a scenario, a professional hearing test is recommended to assess and monitor the child's hearing capabilities.

Lack of response to their name

As infants mature into toddlers, they start to familiarise themselves with the sound of their own names and respond correspondingly when addressed. However, a noticeable change in this behaviour might indicate hearing difficulties.

If your child consistently fails to respond when their name is called-especially when you're not within their line of sight-it's a concern that warrants attention.

It's worth noting that children can often discern facial cues or might hear more clearly when you're directly in front of them. Thus, they may still respond to their names being called in these instances. But if your child consistently doesn't react to their name when there are no obvious distractions, it's advisable to consult an audiologist for a professional hearing assessment.

Persistent need for high-volume levels

Children, like adults, can occasionally prefer their music or television at a higher volume. However, if you find your child consistently struggling to perceive sounds or follow dialogues when the volume is at a moderate level, it could be a potential sign of hearing impairment. They may still be able to hear sounds or speech at louder volumes, but a difficulty in hearing at quieter levels warrants attention.

Remember, continuous exposure to excessively loud sounds can harm children's ears. Therefore, if you notice that your child consistently insists on a higher volume for auditory activities, it could be an early sign of hearing loss. In such a case, an evaluation of their auditory capabilities by a professional audiologist is highly recommended. This assessment will determine the extent of potential hearing loss and guide the necessary steps for intervention.

Delay in speech development

The joy of hearing a child's first words is a milestone eagerly anticipated by parents. As children grow, they typically develop their speech skills, progressing from making basic sounds to forming words. However, a notable delay in this progression may suggest potential hearing impairment. Especially if your child displays an unusually limited vocabulary or struggles to form simple sentences appropriate for their age, it could be a red flag.

While delayed speech development can also point to learning difficulties, it's essential not to rule out possible hearing loss without a proper assessment. Remember, the child's hearing ability significantly influences their capacity to learn spoken language.

Therefore, if you observe a delay or an irregularity in your child's speech development, consider scheduling a hearing test with a professional audiologist. The examination will help determine whether hearing loss is a contributing factor and guide the required intervention strategies.

Methods of testing hearing in children

The process of testing a child's hearing can be accomplished through various techniques, strategically designed and selected by an audiologist in line with the child's age, health status, and overall development. The techniques employed can be broadly classified into two categories: behavioural and physiological.

Behavioural tests

Behavioural tests revolve around observing the child's reactions to a range of sounds played at varying volumes and intensities. An audiologist meticulously tracks if the child is responding to speech and sounds, gauging their responses through head movements and eye reactions. These tests can be customised according to the child's age.

For school-aged children, the test might involve raising their hands when they hear a specific sound, whereas preschoolers might be asked to move a toy upon hearing a sound.

In some variants of these tests, children may also be asked to engage in activities such as identifying pictures related to the sounds they hear or repeating words back to the tester.

These tests offer a comprehensive understanding of a child's ability to perceive and respond to a variety of sounds, aiding in the detection of potential hearing impairments.

Physiological tests

Physiological tests are another set of hearing assessments typically used for infants or children who cannot participate effectively in behavioural tests. These tests measure the auditory system's physical responses to sound, without requiring the child's active participation.

Through the combination of these tests, an audiologist can offer a thorough and accurate assessment of a child's auditory capabilities, leading to early detection and intervention for any potential hearing impairment.