Auditory System Hearing Testing Impairments Loss

Hearing tests are important for early identification of hearing problems. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a hearing loss, a hearing loss test can identify a hearing loss, as well as the type and potential cause.

Hearing Screens

Hearing screens are brief tests using sound frequencies that give a broad picture of whether hearing thresholds (the lowest intensity at which a sound can be heard) are within the normal range. Certain populations can benefit from regular preventative hearing screens, including:

  • Adults and the elderly: Aging is associated with several causes of hearing loss. Early identification of hearing loss means it can be addressed so the impact of the loss can be minimized.
  • Children: Hearing should be monitored throughout childhood. Schools usually conduct annual hearing screenings for students. Children not meeting passing screen criteria may be referred to a physician or an audiologist.
  • Those who work in noisy environments: Excessive exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. If you have occupational exposure to noise, you should monitor your hearing with regular screens or tests. You may need to adjust your hearing protection if necessary.

When Should Children be Tested?

Children should be tested for hearing at birth, and regularly thereafter. Young children and preschoolers can be trained to respond (e.g. by raising a hand) when they hear a sound. Most children of this age can be tested with headphones, allowing each ear to be tested separately. Infants are often tested by observing to determine whether they turn their heads toward a sound.

Along with regular screenings, you should have your child’s hearing tested if she is displaying certain behaviors. If your child does not hear low-volume sounds, or does not respond when you call her name when she cannot see you, contact your pediatrician about further hearing testing. This is particularly important if this behavior begins suddenly after an illness, such as meningitis. Finally, if your child does not pass a school hearing screen, he may be referred for further testing.

When Should Adults be Tested?

Adults’ hearing does not usually need to be monitored as closely as children’s hearing. However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends adults have a hearing screening every decade, and every three years after age 50. You should also consider testing if you notice changes in your hearing, such as:

  • Difficulty understanding people speaking, especially when you cannot see their faces
  • Difficulty understanding people on the phone
  • Feeling as though people around you are mumbling.

If you suspect you may have a hearing loss, an audiologist can test your hearing acuity with a hearing frequency test, called a pure tone test, and a speech reception test, which examines your ability to hear and identify words. If you have had a hearing screen and did not meet passing criteria, the professionals administering the screening may refer you to an audiologist for further workup.

Resources

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Hearing screening. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Web site: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/testing/.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff. (n.d.). Noise and hearing loss prevention. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from Centers for Disease Control Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/faq/faq.html.

KidsHealth. (n.d.). Hearing evaluation in children. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from Kidshealth.com Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/hear.html#.