Children learn speech by imitating the sounds that they hear around them, and without the tools of hearing and speech many developmental milestones can be delayed and feel almost impossible. There is a myth circulating about children needing to be a certain age to have their hearing tested. Doesn’t my child have to be able to talk to accurately respond to a hearing test? Absolutely not. If you suspect that your child is hearing impaired, they can be tested as early as 4 or 5 months old with the appropriate techniques. Using a model based on human reflexes, doctors can administer hearing tests to even the smallest of babies; and as a parent with a concern about your child’s hearing you will want to know as soon as possible how you can help them to overcome these obstacles.
Here are some warning signs that your infant or child may be hearing impaired:
As you can see, many of the cues used to identify a child that may have a hearing problem are identical to those of a child with a developmental delay in speech. The only way to differentiate between these two serious concerns is to visit your audiologist. Your pediatrician can help you to detect whether or not your child is reaching the usual milestones for their age, and refer you to an audiologist that can administer the appropriate test. Using a test known as Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA), it is possible to use lights as positive reinforcement for response to sound, and to “condition” even a very young child to look toward a new sound. This method is used most often in children under two and a half years old, and can be very effective in helping to determine a hearing problem from a speech delay.