Hearing well is taken for granted until we develop hearing loss. As adults, we are fortunate to retain memory of sounds and pictures that can ‘trigger’ these memories of sounds lost. In a toddler or newborn child, however, these sounds have not yet developed into picture memories or meaning for language and communication.
It's important to identify if a child has hearing problems as soon as possible, because it can affect their speech and language development, social skills and education. Treatment is also more effective if any problems are detected and managed early on, and an early diagnosis will also help ensure you and your child have access to any special support services you may need.
At Chime, we recognise that having medical tests can be a daunting and potentially scary prospect for children and their parents. In order to put your child’s mind at ease before a visit to a Chime audiologist, we have produced a Chime Children’s Hearing Test leaflet. Using simple language and fun illustrations, the leaflet explains exactly what is involved in a hearing test with one of our experts at the Chime Audiology Centre, in the hope of demystifying the experience and taking away any feelings of unease.
Usually your child’s hearing will be tested within a few weeks of birth. Your child will not automatically receive a further appointment for a hearing test. If you have any concerns, you should ask your GP or health visitor if they can refer you to Chime – your trusted NHS hearing services provider. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us direct to request a Children’s Hearing Test leaflet.
Hearing aids can be fitted at any age, even to babies in the first months of life if appropriate. But first we must assess what level of hearing loss your child has. Here are some of the main tests your Chime audiologist will carry when testing the level of your child’s hearing loss:
Test: Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA)
Age: seven months to two and a half years
What’s involved: Your child will sit on your lap while sounds are presented. Your child will be taught to link the sound to a visual reward, such as a toy or computer screen lighting up, and once your child is able to associate the sound and the visual reward, the volume and pitch of the sound will be varied to determine the quietest sounds your child is able to hear.
Test: Play audiometry
Age: Between two and five years old
What’s involved: Sounds will be played to your child through headphones or speakers and then asked to perform a simple task – such as putting a ball in a bucket – when they hear the sound. As with VRA, the volume and pitch of the sound will be varied to determine the quietest sounds your child is able to hear.
Test: Pure tone audiometry
Age: From 5 years
What’s involved: As with play audiometry, sounds are played at different volumes and frequencies through headphones, but this time your child will be asked to respond when they hear them by pressing a button. By changing the level of the sound, the audiologist can work out the quietest sounds your child can hear.
Test: Bone conduction test
What’s involved: Most of the tests above can also be carried out using a small vibrating device placed behind the ear, which passes sound directly to the inner ear through the bones in the head. This can help identify which part of the ear isn't working properly if your child is having hearing problems.
Test: Speech perception test
What’s involved: Speech perception tests assess your child's ability to recognise words. This can be performed in a variety of ways depending on your child's age and ability. Some may be performed using voice and others may involve playing speech through headphones or a speaker. The child may need to identify words they hear by pointing at a toy, picture, or repeating what they hear.
What’s involved: Tympanometry is a test to assess how flexible the eardrum is. During this test, a soft rubber tube will be placed at the entrance of your child's ear. Air is gently blown down the tube and a sound is played through a small speaker inside it. The tube then measures the sound that's bounced back from the ear.
Chime is different from other High Street or city centre audiology service providers. A Community Interest Company (CIC), Chime invests any surplus funds back into services for hearing impaired patients. We have a contract to offer NHS adult and children’s audiology services, free at the point of delivery on behalf of NHS Devon, in Exeter Mid & East Devon.
“My daughter has recently been fitted with a hearing aid and is using it all the time. It has increased her self confidence and also her school work is improving.”
“Andie was incredibly patient and took a lot of time explaining every step in the procedure as well as motivated my daughter to persevere in using her aid.”
“Thank you for getting down on the floor with my disabled son (at the last appointment) and explaining things to him. I really, really appreciate it."
If you would like further advice, please contact us at the Chime Hearing Centre in Exeter: Call 01392 953060.
Information Sources for help with hearing health in children: