Hearing Tests for Children

Hearing Tests for Children

Hearing tests, or audiometry tests, are used to assess a child's hearing and can typically be completed in a soundproof booth at a hospital, clinic or physician's office. They check how well a child is able to hear by measuring the softest sound the child can detect. Results from these tests is important to ensure that children can actively engage in social and academic activities.

Preparing for a Hearing Test

No preparation is typically required prior to a hearing test, but parents should explain to their child why they are getting the test and what to expect. Younger children might not understand what the test is and might be scared of the overhead headphones, so it’s helpful to provide them with an explanation they can understand. Parents should also schedule any noise-producing activities away from the time of the test to ensure accuracy.


The exact procedure and equipment used will depend on the child’s age. Typically the test will involve placing headphones on the child’s head and having them respond when they hear a sound through the headphones. After the sound is presented, the child will be asked to raise their hand, press a button or respond in some other manner. The sound will get progressively softer and the audiologist will keep track of the responses at each increment of sound.


Types of hearing tests include:

  • Pure Tone Audiometry (PTA) - Used with children as young as 4 to measure the softest level of sound a child can detect in various frequencies.
  • Tympanometry - Measures the vibrations in the ear by creating varying air pressures and then measuring the response. Used primarily to diagnose ear infections or middle ear problems.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response - Measures the neural pathways between the ear and brain by presenting sounds and measuring the response of the brain.
  • Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emissions (DPOAE)- Measures sounds emitted from the inner ear in response to a sound stimulus and measures how the sound reflects off the ear canal.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) - Measures the inner ear’s response to sound which is then measured by a microphone.


Hearing tests do not usually come with any risks or side-effects.

Why is a Hearing Test Needed?

A hearing test may be recommended in a few different instances. For example, if a child is born prematurely, has problems at birth, has severe ear infections, is struggling with development, or has a problem with their hearing or balance. Some hearing tests may also be used to monitor progress after a child has had any sort of ear surgery. Lastly, a hearing test may be part of a routine physical.

When Should Your Child Get a Hearing Test?

The American Speech-Language- Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends that all children should have their hearing tested prior to kindergarten. Preemies, babies born before 37 weeks, should be tested by the time they reach one year old. Hearing tests are also required for all newborns before they are discharged from the hospital.