A Newborn Hearing Screening is conducted within the first few days of life, before a baby even leaves the hospital. If the screening indicates that follow-up testing is needed, you’ll need to make an appointment to see a pediatric audiologist recommended by your doctor as soon as possible. Pediatric audiologists are best equipped to test babies, determine whether there is a hearing loss, and guide in the next steps going forward to choose the best options to suit your baby’s needs.
What types of testing does a Pediatric Audiologist do?
-Newborns and very young infants
The audiologist will conduct an ABR that is more comprehensive than the newborn screening done at the hospital. ABR stands for Auditory Brainstem Response, and measures the reaction of a child’s brain to sound stimulation. The ABR will give a picture of your child’s ability to hear.
-Older babies (about 9 months and up)
As your baby becomes more mature and can actively participate in the process, an audiologist will do follow-up testing to further define the baby’s hearing ability. This is called sound-field testing and is done in a special soundproof room with speakers. The technique used is called Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA), which uses behavioral conditioning to teach children to respond to sounds. The child may simply look in the direction the sound is coming from and be rewarded by seeing an image of a playful cartoonish monkey, for example. Tones (like musical notes) at different volume levels will play through the speakers and result in a graph of your child’s hearing called an audiogram.
What if there is a hearing loss?
If your child has hearing loss, your audiologist and pediatrician will help decide what to do next. They may refer you to an ENT to address any medical issues that can be resolved. Therapists can provide early intervention services so you can learn more about hearing loss and how to facilitate listening, speaking, and communication development. These professionals can also help you choose the best technology and provide assistance in accessing insurance coverage.
If hearing aids are the best route, a pediatric audiologist will assist you with the fitting of hearing aids and complete the programming of these devices. They make impressions for earmolds to fit the hearing device onto the baby’s ears. Earmolds will have to be made often since tiny ears grow quickly.
The audiologist will regularly monitor hearing levels to be on the alert for changes in hearing that may result from factors like middle ear infections or progressive hearing loss. In addition, regular monitoring of the hearing aids insures that they are providing the best access to sound possible.
If surgically implanted technology called cochlear implants are the best route for your child, a pediatric audiologist will help you through the before and after surgery process that has many steps.
What happens when my child with a hearing loss goes to daycare or nursery school?
The audiologist seeks to ensure that your child has the best access to sound possible to develop listening, speaking, and communication skills. There is assistive technology available in addition to hearing aids that can make hearing easier for the child in daycare, nursery school, etc. The audiologist can evaluate these settings and make recommendations for this assistive technology.
They can also be a great source of information not only for parents, but also for daycare and school staff. All adults who have regular interactions with a child that has hearing loss should be comfortable managing the child’s listening devices and understand that these devices should be used during all the child’s waking hours for maximum benefit.
How is the audiologist certified to do this work?
New audiologists must earn a doctoral degree and hold a state license. Hundreds of hours of supervised clinical experience, passing of a national exam, post-graduate clinical experience, and continued education to maintain a current license are all requirements to practice as an audiologist. They study hearing loss, central auditory processing, and balance disorders. Most training programs allow audiologists to specialize in pediatric, geriatric, or educational audiology. They are the ideal specialists to guide you through the journey of hearing loss along with your child’s physicians.