Do I have a hearing loss?
The simple answer to this question is to have your hearing tested by an audiologist. Hearing tests are not only for people who suspect they have a hearing loss – everyone should have a baseline hearing test as part of a routine health check. How would you know that your hearing has changed unless you know what your normal hearing is like to begin with? Adults between 18 to 44 years should have their hearing tested every 5 years, then every 2 -3 years from the age of 45 years and onwards. Children should have their hearing tested at birth, at 12 months then every 3 years after that.
Different tests are used to test hearing for different age groups. These are explained below. The results of the tests are available immediately and will be discussed with you at the end of the appointment.
- Hearing tests for babies: Hearing testing on infants can be done as early as 48 hours after birth. Babies cannot give a reliable behavioral response to sound, and so a direct response from the hearing organ is measured while the baby is sleeping or lying quietly. Testing is non-invasive, pain free, and provides an immediate indication that the hearing organs have developed and are responding to incoming sounds. It is highly recommended that all babies are tested at birth.
- Hearing tests for children 8 months – 2 ½ years: The child is now old enough to provide a behavioral response to sound. Testing is done in a sound proof booth, and the child sits on a parent’s lap facing an audiologist. A second audiologist stands behind the parent and presents a variety of sounds, to which the child responds behaviorally – generally by turning his/her head. Testing is also non-invasive and does not cause any pain or discomfort.
- Children 2 ½ – 5 years of age: Testing is performed in a sound proof booth with two audiologists. The child is taught through play to listen for sounds, and then give a behavioral response when the sound is heard (e.g. putting a block into a bucket). Sounds are presented through speakers initially and then through headphones (if the child will tolerate these). We aim to assess the full spectrum of frequencies (250Hz – 8000Hz) and test awareness of speech too.
- Older children and adults: The full spectrum of hearing tests can now be performed. The person sits in a sound proof booth, headphones are fitted and a behavioral response (pressing a button) is required each time a sound is heard. Hearing through the outer, middle and inner ears is assessed. How the person hears speech is also assessed, requiring the patient to repeat soft and loud words as they are presented.