October is National Audiology Awareness Month! Let’s talk about why audiology services matter and what a typical hearing evaluation at Texas Hearing Institute looks like with our expert pediatric audiologists.
What is Audiology?
Audiology is the study of hearing and the inner ear. Audiologists are healthcare providers responsible for diagnosing and treating hearing, balance and other ear issues. At Texas Hearing Institute, our pediatric audiologists work together with families to diagnose childhood hearing loss and provide family-centered, evidence-based treatment options when hearing loss is diagnosed. We provide comprehensive pediatric audiology services, including hearing evaluations, hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone conduction hearing aids (osseointegrated devices), auditory brainstem response evaluations and more.
When might my child need to see an Audiologist?
Not every child who sees an audiologist has hearing loss! While deaf and hard of hearing children make up a large percentage of our patient population, audiologists also work with children with other disabilities or medical conditions. A hearing evaluation may be recommended if your child fails a hearing screening at school or at the pediatrician, has recurrent ear infections, or if there are concerns about your child’s speech and language development.
My child has been referred for a hearing evaluation.What does that appointment look like?
A hearing evaluation can look different depending on the age and development of your child. However, there are a few things you can always expect to see during your appointment. Come along with us for a hearing evaluation appointment at Texas Hearing Institute!
When you arrive for your appointment, you’ll check in at the front desk and wait in our lobby. Soon, a pediatric audiologist will arrive to bring you and your family back to the clinic for the appointment. If you are in need of an interpreter, be sure to let us know! We provide in-person Spanish interpretation and phone and video interpretation in various languages to ensure that all our families can participate in the appointment.
Upon arrival in the examination room, the audiologist will start the appointment by asking some questions about your child’s medical and developmental history. Some questions you may be asked include:
- Do you have concerns about your child’s hearing?
- Do you have concerns about your child’s speech?
- Do you have a family history of childhood hearing loss?
- Has your child been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
After discussing your concerns as well as your child’s history, we will move on to the hearing test. First, we will look in your child’s ear using an otoscope to ensure that the ear is clear of wax and drainage. Then,we will place a soft earbud into your child’s ear canal to check for any fluid, pressure or congestion that can build up behind the eardrum.
The next series of tests involve playing loud beeps into your child’s ears to measure their acoustic reflex in response to the sound. This test will help confirm that the auditory nerve is communicating with the inner ear and the brain. Then, we will measure otoacoustic emissions, also known as OAEs, by placing a soft earbud in your child’s ears while they listen to sounds played at different pitches. Your audiologist will be looking for a response back from the inner organ of hearing, otherwise known as the cochlea, sort of like an echo to help confirm that the cochlea is healthy.
Once these first few tests are completed, your audiologist will take you and your child into the soundproof booth for the next part of the hearing test! In the sound booth, your child will be asked to respond to speech and sounds to measure the softest they can hear. This test may look different depending on your child’s age – babies and toddlers will be taught to look for fun videos in response to sounds while preschool-aged children will be taught to play a game when they hear the sounds. Older children and teenagers may be able to complete the hearing test by pushing a button or raising their hand in response to the sounds. Your audiologist will work with your child to determine what type of test is best for them.
At the end of your hearing test, your audiologist will take some time to discuss the results and any follow-up recommendations. This is a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the hearing test or your child’s hearing.
What can I do to help prepare my child for a hearing evaluation?
New places and appointments can be intimidating for children. Our pediatric audiologists will do their best to help your child feel comfortable during the appointment, but it can be helpful to prepare your child for what to expect ahead of time.
Here are some tips for preparing your child for their first appointment:
- Go over the parts of the test they may encounter and show them some pictures of what those tests may look like in advance.
- Get your child comfortable with having their ears touched! Some children may be sensitive to having someone touch or look in their ears – practicing at home with headphones can be helpful.
- Schedule your appointment for a time when your child is most likely to be awake and happy! Scheduling during their typical nap, meal, or snack time can make obtaining accurate test results challenging.
- Take a deep breath and relax, even if things don’t go according to plan. Some children may not be able to complete every part of the hearing evaluation during their first appointment – and that’s ok! Our team is here to help you with any follow-up recommendations or next steps.
If you have concerns about your child’s hearing or speech, or if you have additional questions about what to expect for your upcoming appointment, contact our audiology department today. We look forward to seeing you!