Types of Hearing Tests

There are several types of hearing tests for children, depending on their ages.

Otoacoustic Emissions OAE)

A test that uses a tiny, flexible earphone that is inserted into the baby's ear. Sounds are sent through the earphone. A microphone in the earphone records the otoacoustic emissions (responses) of the normal ear in reaction to the sounds. There are no emissions in a baby with some types of hearing loss. This test is painless and is usually completed within a few minutes, while the baby sleeps.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)

A test that uses electrodes (wires) attached with adhesive to the baby's scalp. While the baby sleeps, clicking sounds are made through tiny earphones in the baby's ears. The test measures the brain's activity in response to the sounds. As in OAE, this test is painless.

ABR testing can be a screening or an evaluation. If a screening test identifies that your child has a hearing loss, further testing is needed. It is recommended that all babies with hearing loss be identified by 3 months of age so that treatment can begin before the baby is 6 months old, an important time for speech and language development. 

Visual Reinforcement Audiology

A hearing test used in infants to observe their behavior in response to certain sounds. You will hold your child on your lap during the test. Sounds will be sent through speakers or earphones and your child will turn to the sounds.  Animals will light up, reinforcing your child’s response. 

Play Audiometry

A test that uses an electrical machine to transmit sounds at different volumes and pitches into your child's ears. Your child usually wears some type of earphones. The toddler is asked to do something with a toy (i.e., touch a toy, move a toy) every time the sound is heard. This test relies on the cooperation of the child, which may not always be given.

Pure Tone Audiometry

A test that uses an electrical machine that makes sounds at different volumes and pitches in your child's ears. The child usually wears some type of earphones. In this age group, the child is simply asked to respond in some way when the tone is heard in the earphone. Your child might raise his hand or push a button when he hears the sounds.

Tympanometry (also called impedance or admittance)

A test that can be done to help determine how the middle ear is working. It does not tell if the child is hearing or not, but helps to find any changes in pressure in the middle ear. A soft plastic tip is placed over the ear canal. The machine then measures eardrum movement when the pressure changes. The test does not hurt but your child will need to be gently held in place and remain still. The test takes only a few minutes per ear.

Last Updated 05/2013