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Hearing Tests

Why It Is Done

Hearing tests may be done:

  • To screen babies and young children for hearing problems that might interfere with their ability to learn, speak, or understand language. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all newborns be screened for hearing loss.1 All 50 states require newborn hearing tests for all babies born in hospitals. Also, many health organizations and doctors' groups recommend routine screening. Talk to your doctor about whether your child has been or should be tested.
  • To screen children and teens for hearing loss. Hearing should be checked by a doctor at each well-child visit. In children, normal hearing is important for proper language development. Some speech, behavior, and learning problems in children can be related to problems with hearing. For this reason, many schools routinely provide hearing tests when children first begin school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a formal hearing test at ages 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 years. 2
  • To evaluate possible hearing loss in anyone who has noticed a persistent hearing problem in one or both ears or has had difficulty understanding words in conversation.
  • To screen for hearing problems in older adults. Hearing loss in older adults is often mistaken for diminished mental capacity (for instance, if the person does not seem to listen or respond to conversation).
  • To screen for hearing loss in people who are repeatedly exposed to loud noises or who are taking certain antibiotics, such as gentamicin.
  • To find out the type and amount of hearing loss (conductive, sensorineural, or both). In conductive hearing loss, the movement of sound (conduction) is blocked or does not pass into the inner ear. In sensorineural hearing loss, sound reaches the inner ear, but a problem in the nerves of the ear or, in rare cases, the brain itself prevents proper hearing.

How To Prepare

Tell your doctor if you:

  • Have recently been exposed to any painfully loud noise or to a noise that made your ears ring. Avoid loud noises for 16 hours prior to having a thorough hearing test.
  • Are taking or have taken antibiotics that can damage hearing, such as gentamicin.
  • Have had any problems hearing normal conversations or noticed any other signs of possible hearing loss.
  • Have recently had a cold or ear infection.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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