Screening for hearing problems

Children

Some hearing problems can delay your child's speech and language development. Early screening for hearing loss can help prevent many learning, social, and emotional problems that can be related to speech and language development.1

Call your doctor if at any time you suspect your child has a hearing problem, such as if your baby does not seem to respond to loud noises or your young child is not making sounds or talking at the expected ages.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all newborns be screened for hearing loss.2 Many states require newborn hearing tests for all babies born in hospitals. Talk to your doctor about whether your child has been or should be tested.

In most hearing tests, your child responds to how well he or she hears a series of tones or words (subjective testing). Hearing is also tested by examining your child's ears or by using an instrument to measure how the ears react to sound (objective testing). In objective testing your child is not asked to respond to sounds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that:3

  • Newborns' hearing should be tested with a hearing test (objective testing).
  • Children ages 1 month through 12 months should be tested subjectively by asking you about your child's hearing.
  • Children at 15, 18, 24, and 30 months and 3 years should be tested subjectively.
  • Children 4 years old should be tested objectively.
  • Children ages 5 to 10 years old should be tested objectively at 5, 6, 8, and 10 years old and be tested subjectively at the other yearly checkups.
  • Children and teens ages 11 to 21 should be tested subjectively.

Hearing tests may be a part of a well-child appointment.

Adults

Gradual hearing loss can affect people of all ages. You may not be aware of it, especially if it has happened over time. Your family members or friends may notice that you're having trouble understanding what others are saying. If you have concerns about your hearing, talk to your doctor during routine visits.

Take this hearing loss self-test to see if you may need a hearing test.

For more information, see the topics Hearing Tests and Hearing Loss.

Citations

  1. Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, American Academy of Pediatrics (2007). Year 2007 position statement: Principles and guidelines for early hearing detection and intervention programs. Pediatrics, 120(4): 898–921. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/120/4/898.
  2. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2008). Universal screening for hearing loss in newborns: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Pediatrics, 122(1): 143–148. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstf08/newbornhear/newbhearrs.pdf.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Recommendations for preventive pediatric health care. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., p. 591. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. Also available online: http://practice.aap.org/content.aspx?aid=1599&nodeID=4003.

Last Updated: August 28, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine

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