Pediatric Audiology

While you more or less expect an elderly person to have issues with their hearing, hearing loss in a child is harder to swallow.

In fact, childhood hearing loss can have devastating developmental consequences if not detected and addressed early on.

Because many of the members on our team are parents, we understand that the healthy growth and development of your child is your highest priority. Rest assured, it’s ours too.

If you suspect your child is not hearing well, struggling to communicate, or lacking in language development, you want answers from professionals who are able to accurately diagnose and provide solutions that address your child’s hearing loss.

Dr Nathan K. Griffin, Clinical Audiologist, With a Young Patient at Hearing & Balance Clinics
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One of your first questions is, “Does someone provide pediatric hearing tests near me?”

Hearing & Balance Clinics provides pediatric hearing tests and treatment solutions at our Lavonia, Watkinsville, and Loganville locations. Our approach is kid-friendly and produces accurate results that lead to successful outcomes.

Causes of Hearing Loss In Children

Congenital Hearing Loss

Congenital hearing loss is a condition that exists at birth due to genetic conditions, which account for 50% or more cases or circumstances that disrupt the developmental process before birth.

At around 16 weeks in the womb, fetuses develop their hearing, but prenatal infections, illnesses, and toxins consumed by the mother during pregnancy, along with an infection within the womb, premature birth, gestational diabetes, toxemia during pregnancy, and a lack of oxygen (anoxia) can all contribute to congenital hearing loss.

Newborns are usually screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital, which helps identify it early on, helping limit the effects of hearing loss and maximize auditory function for children with a hearing loss.

Acquired Hearing Loss

All hearing loss that is not congenital is essentially acquired hearing loss because it shows up after birth. There are several risk factors that lead to acquired hearing loss, such as:

  • Frequent ear infections (usually otitis media)
  • Use of ototoxic drugs known to affect hearing
  • Meningitis
  • Measles
  • Encephalitis
  • Chickenpox
  • Influenza
  • Mumps
  • Head injuries
  • Frequent or ongoing exposure to loud noise

Otitis Media

Topping the list of acquired hearing loss in children is otitis media, which is inflammation behind the eardrum in the middle ear, often spreading into the Eustachian tube between the middle ear and the back of the throat.

It is more common among children than adults, because the Eustachian tubes are smaller and less angled in children and the Eustachian tube is easily blocked, causing fluid buildup and “conductive” hearing loss. Infectious otitis media is often easy due to accompanying earache and fever.

Treatment for otitis media as soon as possible, which sometimes includes the insertion of tubes to keep the Eustachian tube open for drainage, can prevent any permanent damage to your child’s hearing.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

The second most common cause of all forms of hearing loss, regardless of age, is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL is rapidly becoming a serious issue among children due to the use of headphones and earbuds, which pump excessive volume from video games and an endless stream of media via smartphones into your child’s ears.

Fortunately, NIHL is preventable. Prevention involves monitoring the volume on your child’s earphones and earbuds while also ensuring that your child wears hearing protection when exposed to damaging noise from lawn and garden equipment, concerts and sporting events, motorcycles and snowmobiles, or while participating in shooting sports or hunting.

When Should I Consult a Pediatric Audiologist?

Knowing the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children is a crucial step toward getting the help your child needs as early as possible. To help you evaluate whether your child might be experiencing a hearing loss, answer the following questions:
  • Does your child get frequent colds and ear infections?
  • Does your child not understand people without facing them?
  • Does your child speak loudly, as if having trouble hearing himself/herself?
  • Does your child always turn up the volume on the TV or radio?
  • Does your child often not respond when called?
  • Does your child need to have things repeated?
  • Is there a history of hearing loss in your family?
  • Was your child born prematurely? (sooner than 37 weeks)
  • Did your child have a low birth weight?
  • Did your child experience a lack of oxygen at birth?
If you answered “yes” to any or several of these questions, your child could be at risk of having or developing a hearing loss. Contact a pediatric audiologist like the ones at Hearing & Balance Clinics for a thorough hearing evaluation as soon as possible.
The consequences of leaving your child’s hearing challenges unaddressed include difficulties with speech and language, impaired social emotional development, and reduced academic performance.

Pediatric Hearing Tests at Hearing & Balance Clinics

Early intervention of childhood hearing loss is key to a broader range of solutions that lead to the most successful outcomes for your child. For this reason, newborn hearing screenings are required in Georgia before your baby can be discharged from the hospital.

If your baby did not have a screening before going home, for any reason, it is important that you have their hearing checked within the first three months of life.

Not passing a hearing screening after birth does not necessarily indicate that your child has a hearing loss, but it usually means that another screening must be done within three months. If hearing loss is found then, treatment should begin right away.

Children should continue to have their hearing screened at their pediatric well visits. Hearing screening tests usually are done:

At ages 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 years

During the preteen years

During the teen years

If you have a concern at any time, you can always ask for a hearing check to ensure that everything is alright.

The type of test your child will have depends on your child’s age, development, and health. Many younger children get behavioral hearing tests, which evaluate your child’s response to sounds like calibrated speech (speech that is played with a particular volume and intensity) and pure tones.

A pure tone is a sound with a very specific pitch (frequency), like a note on a keyboard. During your child’s testing, the audiologist will watch for a behavioral response after a child hears a sound. Babies or toddlers may make eye movements or turn their head.

Older kids may move a game piece in response to a sound, and a grade-schooler may raise their hand. Children also can respond to speech with activities like choosing a picture or repeating words softly. Other tests can be done to check hearing if a child is too young or not able to cooperate with behavioral testing.

These tests look at how well the ear, nerves, and brain are working and may include:

Tympanometry Testing

This test tells the audiologist how well the eardrum is moving and can help find middle ear problems, such as fluid behind the eardrum or a hole or tear in the eardrum.

During this test, the audiologist puts a small probe with a rubber tip into the child’s ear. It sends a soft sound and a puff of air into the ear canal.

Test results appear on a graph called a tympanogram. The shape of the graph tells how the eardrum is moving. But sometimes these messages won’t go through or are jumbled.

OAE Testing

This test helps your audiologist evaluate if the cochlea (which creates the messages) is working properly. OAE stands for otoacoustic emissions. During the test, your child’s audiologist puts soft earphones gently into each ear canal.

The earphones make high and low sounds that are in different pitches. Then, the machine records the response made by the cochlea’s outer hair cells. Hospitals use OAE for newborn hearing screening.

A baby that fails this screening will need a full hearing evaluation. Many middle ear problems like ear infection, fluid, or respiratory illness like a cold can cause results from this test to be poor. However, once the issue is resolved, this test should return to normal.

It is common for insurance companies to require a hearing evaluation for your child if you or your child’s pediatrician have concerns of speech delay. Insurance will want to rule out any hearing loss for your child prior to speech therapy beginning. They may also require testing as your child ages and still participates with speech therapy.

Baby Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Testing

Babies cannot respond or verbally communicate; an auditory brainstem response (ABR) may be needed to determine their ability to hear. An auditory brainstem response (ABR) test is a safe and painless evaluation to see how the brain responds to sound stimulus.

ABR testing provides healthcare providers information about possible hearing loss. ABR testing is required when a baby fails the newborn hearing screening at the hospital or if they are too young to do a regular hearing test in a sound booth.

An ABR is performed by an audiologist who places a small earphone in the child’s ears and places informational electrodes (small sensor stickers) behind the ears and on the forehead.

Clicking sounds and tones go through the earphones and electrodes measure how quickly the brain responds to the sound stimulus. An ABR test usually takes 1–2 hours, but the appointment may last about 3 hours.

During this test, your baby needs to be sleeping. If a sleeping baby wakes up during the test or is unable to settle, you may be referred for a sedated ABR test.

ABRs are safe, do not hurt, and do not have any side effects. If your child needs sedation, discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider or sedation team before the test.

Schedule a Hearing Test for Your Child

As parents and grandparents, we understand that nothing is more important than your child’s healthy growth and development. Since hearing loss has a major negative impact on language development, we are gravely serious about pediatric audiology at Hearing & Balance Clinics.

Early detection allows for early treatment, so submit the adjacent form as soon as possible if you suspect a hearing loss in your child or your child hasn’t received the necessary scheduled screenings. A member of our team will call you back to schedule a hearing test for your child.

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