How to Understand Hearing Assessment in Infants and Children


Research into hearing loss has revealed that, in most cases, the child’s parents first suspect the difficulty.

If you suspect that your child has a hearing problem, accu­rate hearing assessment is vital, because a hearing-impaired baby faces specific problems:

  • The child can’t hear what is said by others. Hearing diffi­culties impair the child’s ability to interact with others and can cause a sense of isolation.
  • The child gets no feedback from her own speech because she can’t hear the sounds she makes. A deaf baby starts to make sounds about the same age as a hearing baby, but the lack of feedback means the child has less encouragement to practice and extend those sounds.
  • The child may develop balance and motor-development problems as a result of her hearing loss or ear abnormalities.

Since babbling and listening to sounds provide the founda­tion for later speech development, a child who misses these early experiences will find learning to speak harder than will a child with normal hearing. A hearing-impaired child may be slower to speak, may not use her first words until long after the age she is expected_ to, and may be slower to understand the meaning of words. The sooner a hearing loss is identified and assessed, the sooner action can be taken to help the child.

Your pediatrician will give your baby a routine hearing check soon after birth. These checks are repeated when a baby is about six months and again at regular intervals throughout the preschool years. If this very basic screening suggests a child has some hearing loss, the child will be referred for more detailed assessment by an audiologist, who has specialized equipment available. The audiologist will present the child with sounds at varying, but finely controlled, frequencies. Children referred for speech therapy always undergo a full audiological assessment.

Once an initial assessment leads to the diagnosis of a hearing difficulty, the professionals involved will establish the full extent of the child’s residual hearing, which hearing aids would be most suitable for the child, and how well the child understands and uses language. This analysis enables the hearing loss to be seen within the wider context of the child’s general development.

Children who have been assessed as having a hearing prob­lem may become involved with a number of professionals, all of whom have an important role to play:

  • Otologist: an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) consultant, special­izing in diseases affecting the ear, who will be in charge of medical treatment for the child’s condition.
  • Audiometrician: a specialist who measures hearing levels, and who may be involved in fitting hearing aids.
  • Teacher of the deaf: a specially trained teacher who works with hearing-impaired children and their families and advises on the child’s educational needs.
  • Educational psychologist: a psychologist who is trained in child development, and who is also a qualified teacher, who will assess the child’s progress regularly throughout schooling.
  • Hearing assessment categorizes a child’s hearing capacity in two main ways:
  • In terms of the loudness of sounds that the child can hear. With this system, a mild loss has occurred when a child can’t hear a whisper; a moderate loss has occurred when the child can’t hear a normal voice from three feet away; a severe loss has occurred when the child can’t hear a human voice at all; a profound hearing loss has occurred when the child does not react to any sound whatsoever.
  • In terms of the sound frequencies that the child can hear. With this system, a hearing deficiency may be in the high range of tones, or in the low range, and will impair the child’s ability to hear human voices clearly.
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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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