Hearing loss is one of the most common congenital anomalies, with approximately three out of every 1,000 infants suffering from hearing loss. But through early detection and intervention, effective treatment can be immediately initiated. This is why regular hearing screenings and evaluations, beginning at or shortly after birth, are essential for all children. Timing is everything; it is never too early to determine how a baby hears

Types of Tests

Arkansas Children’s Audiology department offers a complete range of audiological services including identification and analysis of hearing loss, parent counseling and teaching daily life skills (habilitation) for children with hearing impairment. The screenings provided by the audiology department include:
  • Auditory brainstem response test (ABR): Commonly performed on infants and small children, this test shows the brainstem’s response to sound.
  • Behavioral audiological evaluation: Performed in a sound-treated room, this test measures degrees of hearing for different tones to determine whether a child can hear soft sounds at all of the necessary levels for hearing spoken words clearly.
  • Newborn hearing screening: As the name suggests, this test is used to identify hearing loss shortly after birth. If your baby is referred for more testing, it does not necessarily mean they have hearing loss, but it is imperative to return for the additional screening before the child is 1 month old.
  • Otoacoustic emissions test (OAE): This test reveals whether or not the hair cells of the inner ear are operating.
  • Tympanometry test: Usually performed during a child’s visit for any audiological evaluation, this test measures the health of the eardrum and the middle ear space behind it.

Knowing the Signs of Hearing Loss

Early identification, aggressive intervention, and family involvement are important when a child experiences hearing loss. Even after passing the initial screening after birth, infants and children can still show signs of hearing loss as they grow. The best way to conclude if your child’s hearing is developing properly is by monitoring these important speech and hearing milestones:

  • Birth to 3 months: Your child should startle at loud sounds and be soothed by voices or singing.
  • 4 to 6 months: Your child should turn their eyes or head toward the sound and pay attention to toys that make noise.
  • 7 to 11 months: your child should respond to their name being called and babble or imitate sounds.
  • 1 to 4 years: Signs of hearing loss for children ages 1 to 4 years include a delay in speech and language development, pulling or scratching at their ears and a lack of attention when someone is talking.
  • School-age children: Hearing loss in school-age children can be shown through difficulty with reading, academic struggles, social isolation and extreme fatigue after school.

How to Protect Your Child’s Hearing

If your child is not showing signs of genetic hearing loss as they grow, the best thing you can do as a parent is to teach them the proper ways to protect their hearing. Some of these include using protective gear around loud sounds, keeping the television and headphones at an appropriate listening level and avoiding the use of cotton swabs in the ear canal.

It is also important that your child receives routine hearing screenings, whether at school or with your primary care physician. If your child ever suffers from an ear infection, be sure to follow up with your primary care physician to detect any possible side effects on their hearing.

The audiology and speech pathology department at Arkansas Children’s offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient services for children of all ages. Your child’s doctor can contact the scheduling center to make a referral to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock by calling 501-364-4000 or Arkansas Children’s Northwest by calling 479-725-6538.