Hospitals performing deliveries provide newborn bilateral hearing screening before the baby is discharged using a otoacoustic emissions testing (OAE) or auditory brainstem response test (ABR). If a newborn doesn’t pass the screening, DuPage Children's ENT and Allergy offers follow-up screening as well as complete diagnostic testing using state of the art tools. The OAE is conducted by delivering a small stimulus sound through a soft ear tip and measuring the echo which is reflected back from the cochlea. The ABR is a non-invasive test which measures a brainwave response to sound stimulus of varying loudness and pitch when the child is quiet or in a sleep or sedated state. Responses are recorded with electrodes placed on the patient’s head and sound is delivered to each ear separately to determine the softest sound which a patient can hear for low, middle, and high pitch sounds. Newborns can be tested within a few hours after birth.
Subjective behavioral testing can be performed for babies and preschool children using Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA) and Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA). VRA is used with children ages seven months to three years.The child is taught to turn his/her head each time a sound is heard and the head turn behavior is reinforced by the presentation of a light or a moving toy. The sound is usually presented through speakers in a quiet sound booth. CPA is used with children ages three to five years. The child is taught to respond by playing a game where a toy is thrown in a bucket or a peg is placed in a board. Sounds are delivered through speakers in a sound booth or through headphones.
Hearing assessment for older children and adults is accomplished using traditional audiometry assessment and tympanometry. Sound is delivered via headphones and the patient provides verbal responses.
In many cases, hearing loss is not permanent. The distinction between conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss is important because many but not all cases of conductive hearing loss can be improved. Treatments used include placement of tympanostomy tubes, also called PE tube or myringotomy tubes, or correcting ear deformities. A comprehensive audiogram is the best way to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. When it can’t be reversed through medical or surgical intervention, conventional hearing aids can be very effective. Hearing aids and assistive listening devices come in varying shapes, sizes, and technology levels. In some cases an implantable device such as a bone anchored hearing system or cochlear implant can help. The doctor will help patients find the best solution to meet their needs.
In many cases, hearing loss is not permanent. Severe ear infections, sinus blockages, and ear deformities can result in varying degrees of hearing loss. Removing the sinus blockages and clearing the eustachian tubes are simple things that will help to restore a child's hearing. As long as the tubes remain open and there is no infection to cause inflammation or irritation, a child's hearing may be as good as new. If permanent damage has been caused to the ear or any of its functioning parts, hearing aids may be required to restore the child's hearing. If a doctor finds the underlying cause of the issue and corrects it, the hearing loss may only be temporary.As the ear begins to heal, hearing will gradually return.
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