A guide to having your child’s hearing tested, with tips on how to prepare for the appointment
Hearing is a key part of your child’s development. Even mild hearing loss in children can create issues with speech, language, behaviour and social skills. With this in mind you will want to check that your child’s hearing is not causing them any problems. Booking a hearing test for your child can help to rule out (or identify) any issues early on, and ensure that your child gets the necessary support they need to thrive. Here, we look at the children’s hearing tests and assessments available at our clinic, with tips on how to help prepare your child for their visit.
When should I get my child’s hearing tested?
Parents know their children best, so tend to be first to notice any potential developmental issues. Typically, signs that there might be an issue with hearing can be spotted from around 18 months–2.5 years, when your child is learning to talk. You might notice your child’s speech is not developing at the same rate as an older sibling, or their friends. That said, it can be difficult to spot hearing loss in children, and it can sometimes be mistaken for challenging or defiant behaviour. If your child attends pre-school or day nursery, a teacher might identify speech and language delays in your child, or notice that your child doesn’t always respond when they’re called. While you might feel worried about the developmental effects of a hearing difficulty in your child, it’s important to remember that early detection of any problem is key. You’ll be able to access the expert care sooner, which will mean your child can be supported appropriately. Therefore, if you suspect there is an issue, we recommend making an appointment for a hearing test at the earliest opportunity.
My child’s hearing seems OK. Should I still get it tested?
Babies have their hearing tested soon after they’re born. Beyond that, if there are no concerns, they might not have another hearing test during childhood at all. However, if your child has not had their hearing checked since birth, we would recommend a children’s hearing screening to give you peace of mind that your child’s hearing meets the ‘normal’ threshold. We offer hearing screenings to children of 4 years old and above (when, typically, they start school). At this age they can usually perform the tasks that are part of the screening, making it a good time to approach us for a hearing test.
How does a children’s hearing screening differ from a hearing test?
Children’s hearing screenings are quick, simple and cost-effective appointments that test whether your child meets the baseline for normal hearing. During the 15-minute appointment we test up to four main frequencies that are needed for speech. This is a shorter appointment than a hearing test, which would involve testing a whole range of hearing frequencies. If your child’s hearing meets the normal threshold, then we would send you a report, and no further investigation would be needed. However, if your child’s hearing does not meet the threshold, we would then advise a full hearing test.
What happens during a children’s hearing test?
Children’s hearing tests are longer and more exploratory than children’s hearing screenings, and involve testing a range of hearing frequencies. We would normally only perform a test if a referral has been made from an ENT specialist, speech and language specialist, or if you have come to us with concerns that your child might be experiencing some hearing loss. We’ve set our clinic up to be as child friendly as possible, using state-of-the-art technology to suit various ages and abilities. Our audiologists will determine the most suitable test for your child, from the following:
Visual Reinforcement Audiometry
Specifically designed for infants and toddlers, this involves training a child to respond to sounds linked to toys that light up.
Specifically designed for young children from the age of three, this playful and interactive testing technique encourages a child to perform a specific action – often as part of a fun game – whenever they hear a sound.
Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are sounds that our ears produce naturally. This test assesses the function of the inner ear and determines if there are any hearing or auditory issues. It is commonly used to screen newborn infants, and people who may struggle with more traditional hearing tests.
This is a simple and painless test that measures how the eardrum and middle ear are functioning.
How can I prepare my child for their hearing test?
We know that young children often have a short attention span, and while our experienced paediatric audiologists try to make young visitors feel completely at home, it’s not always easy to predict how your child will feel on the day. To improve the chances of your child feeling comfortable and relaxed during their hearing test, we recommend the following:
- Talk with your child
If they are old enough to understand, explain to them in simple terms what will happen during the hearing test. Use positive language and reassure them that you will be with them throughout the process. Consider reading books or watching videos about visiting the doctor or audiologist to make it more familiar and exciting for them.
- Pick a suitable time
Schedule the appointment at a time that doesn't interfere with your child's naptime or mealtimes. A rested and well-fed child is more likely to be cooperative and in a good mood during the test.
- Plan well
Give yourself ample time to reach the clinic, so you don't feel rushed or stressed. Arriving early can also give your child some time to familiarise themselves with the environment and relax before the test.
- Dress your child comfortably
Pick clothes that are easy to remove, as they may need to wear headphones or have their ears examined during the test .
- Bring a familiar item
If your child has a favourite toy or blanket, consider bringing it along to the appointment. ‘Comfort’ items can help them feel more at ease in a new setting.
- Visit the bathroom beforehand
Taking your child to the toilet (or changing their nappy) before your appointment will mean fewer interruptions during the test, which can unsettle your child.
- Try to stay relaxed and positive
Children can pick up on their parents' emotions, so try to remain calm and positive throughout the process. Your reassurance and encouragement will help your child feel more confident.
- Stay flexible
At times, children may not cooperate during a hearing test due. It's important not to see this as a failure. Our audiologist may suggest taking a short break or rescheduling the test for another time when your child is more comfortable.
Visiting our London audiology clinic for a children’s hearing test
At The Kensington Hearing Clinic we see babies and children from aged six months for hearing assessments. We also accept referrals from a range of specialists including ENT consultants, paediatricians, general practitioners and speech and language therapists. To make an appointment please call (020) 7244 4200 or make an appointment online.