Children in Malaysia with hearing loss can have a problem hearing or comprehending noises due to ear issues, the nerves that transmit sound signals, or the area of the brain that understands these signals. Even slight hearing loss in children can lead to speaking, linguistic abilities, academic performance, and social skills complications. Getting your child's hearing screened at birth and routinely checked afterwards is very important.
When is best to have your child's hearing checked?
It's best to catch hearing problems early because treatment is more successful before six months, so most newborns have a hearing screening test at the hospital. If your baby hasn't had one or was born at home, ensure their hearing is tested within three weeks. Failing the screening doesn't necessarily mean hearing loss, but the child should still do a retest in three months. If hearing loss is present, treatment should start right away.
Your child should also have their hearing checked during regular checkups when they're 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10 years old, as well as during the preteen and teen years. Additionally, let your child's doctor know if you are concerned about any potential hearing problems - they will check it out for you.
How is a child's hearing tested?
An audiologist is a hearing specialist who will test a child's hearing. Depending on the child's age, development, and health, the kind of test they'll do may vary. One such test is behavioural hearing, where the audiologist observes how the child reacts to sounds like calibrated speech and single tones (like notes on a keyboard).
For example, a baby or toddler may move their eyes or head when they hear it, an older kid may move a game piece, and a grade-schooler should raise their hand. If the child cannot cooperate with this testing, other hearing tests are available to check their ear, nerve, and brain function.
Other Tests to Check Ears and Hearing
Tympanometry demonstrates how satisfactorily the eardrum moves and can help discover middle ear problems, such as fluid behind the eardrum or a perforated eardrum.
The audiologist places a tympanometer probe with a small rubber tip in the child's ear during this test. The probe then transmits a soft muffled sound and a slight puff of air into the ear canal. The results may appear on a graph called a tympanogram. The shape of the diagram describes how the eardrum is moving.
Middle Ear Muscle Reflex (MEMR) Test
A tiny muscle inside the ear tenses when children hear loud sounds called the middle ear muscle reflex (MEMR). This reflex aids in protecting the ear against noisy sounds, which can damage hearing. Audiologists know much about a child's hearing based on how well this reflex works.
For the MEMR test, the audiologist sets the soft rubber tip of the tympanometer to the child's ear canal. The probe creates a sequence of loud sounds. A device documents how well the middle ear muscle reflex reacts to the sounds.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test
An auditory brainstem response (or ABR) examination can reveal how well the auditory nerve functions. The auditory nerve is the hearing nerve that connects the ear to the brain.
The audiologist sets small earphones in the child's ear canals and mild electrodes (small sensor stickers) behind the ears and on the forehead. Clicking sounds and tones are transmitted through the earphones. The electrodes calculate the hearing nerve and the brain's reaction to these sounds. Most hospitals use ABR for newborn hearing screening in Malaysia. A baby that fails this screening will require a complete hearing evaluation as a follow-up.
Auditory Steady State Response (ASSR) Test
Audiologists periodically do the ASSR test with (not instead of) ABR to better understand the hearing loss level. An infant should be sleeping or given medicine to help them doze for this test. During the trial, sound passes into the ear canals, and a computer gathers the brain's reaction to the sound.
Central Auditory Evoked Potential (CAEP) Test
The CAEP test allows the audiologist to see if the hearing paths from the brainstem to the hearing part of the brain known as the auditory cortex are working perfectly. This test also utilises tiny earphones and small electrodes called sensor stickers placed behind the ears and on the forehead. The earphone creates clicking sounds and beeps in diverse tones. The electrodes then calculate the hearing nerve and the brain's reaction to the sounds.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Test
The ear collects sounds from the surroundings and turns them into messages the brain can comprehend. Occasionally, these messages won't go through or are mixed. When this occurs, a hearing health professional checks if the cochlea, the one that creates the messages, is working correctly.
They use an OAE test, and the audiologist gently places soft earphones into each ear canal. They have small, flexible foam tips. The earphones produce high and low sounds in various pitches. The machine then records the reaction made by the cochlea's outer hair cells. Some hospitals in Malaysia use OAE for a newborn hearing screening. An infant that fails this screening will need a follow-up of a complete hearing evaluation.
What if my baby or child fails the first hearing tests?
If the young child fails a newborn screen or is diagnosed with a hearing problem, bring them to a specialist. The audiologist will work closely with paediatricians, speech-language therapists, and education specialists to devise a treatment plan for your child. It also helps to meet other families of kids with hearing loss. Reach out to a local support group or ask a care team member about local programs where you can connect.
The Listening Lab Malaysia provides diverse hearing tests for children to assess the best possible solution for the child's hearing loss level. Listening Lab allows your child to regain their lost hearing through the selection and fitting of the best hearing aids in the industry available in Malaysia today.
For proper guidance and planning, let your child undergo the test in our clinic. Book an appointment today and save money by getting the right treatment plan for your child. You may also contact us through Whatsapp.