Improving Children’s Hearing And Speech

Audiologists at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health perform a variety of tests to determine how well a child is hearing and the functional status of the child’s ears. They share the results of these tests with physicians and hearing aid professionals to help them develop treatment plans to improve the child’s hearing. Our audiologists can perform these tests on children of any age, even newborns.

Many children with hearing loss require hearing aids. We have a referral list with a variety of pediatric dispensing audiologists who fit and adjust hearing aids to fit each child’s need.

Types of Audiology Testing

Otoscopy: Otoscopy is visual inspection of the ear canal to make sure the pathway for sound to travel to the middle and inner ear is clear of debris or cerumen (ear wax). It is performed by using an otoscope, a special flashlight, to look into the ear canal. 

Tympanometry: Tympanometry is a pressure test that determines how well the eardrum is functioning. This testing is performed by placing an ear tip in the opening of the ear canal for a few seconds. The test is done because if an eardrum is not functioning normally, it may impact hearing ability. 

Behavioral Audiogram: Behavioral testing can determine the softest level of sound to which a child can respond. This testing allows us to determine how well the child can hear speech and sounds through the pitch range most important to understanding speech. It can be performed in a variety of ways depending on the age and ability of the patient, but often we use speakers or headphones in a soundproof booth. The child must have a developmental age of at least six months. They should be awake and alert for the test, which takes about 15-30 minutes.

OAEs (Otoacoustic Emissions): This testing is an objective measure of cochlear function to help determine how the inner ear system is working. It is performed by placing an ear tip in the child’s ear and then playing some frequency-specific sounds while measuring that ear’s responses to the sounds. The child must be able to sit quietly for two to five minutes.

Unsedated ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response): An ABR test is primarily recommended for infants who did not pass their universal newborn hearing screening before discharge from the hospital. This test allows us to obtain frequency- and ear-specific information about the auditory pathway. In order to achieve these results the baby must sleep soundly for approximately 45 minutes. An unsedated ABR is only performed in natural sleep on babies who are four months adjusted age or younger.

Sedated ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response): This test is recommended only if a behavioral audiogram is unsuccessful or if the child has previously not passed ABR testing. Sedation medications are given and monitored by a physician and a nurse. The child sleeps for approximately one hour. This test can be coordinated with other sedated procedures if necessary. 

Balance Testing: Because the inner ear is responsible for balance, we also provide balance testing.

Why Choose Our Audiology Program?

Audiologists at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health are highly trained and experienced and are familiar with complex hearing disorders. We also work collaboratively with radiologists who perform MRIs and CT scans as needed to diagnose a child’s hearing loss correctly.

Members of the team are also involved in studies that monitor the hearing effects of medications used to treat sickle cell anemia, cancer, cystic fibrosis and other disorders.