You asked

What happens at a hearing test?

Hearing tests vary according to the age of the child being tested, but in general, for preschoolers, the format has more to do with behavioural testing than anything else. This test allows the doctor or audiologist who is conducting the test to determine that sound is travelling throughout the ear.

Before the actual testing begins, however, the doctor will conduct what is known as a tympanometry – a painless test that uses air to measure the mobility of the eardrum. This will also rule out problems like fluid in the ear, or a problem with a part of the ear known as the Eustachian tube. Both of these can give incorrect readings on the rest of the test.

Once the initial testing is out of the way, the doctor will ask your child to repeat some simple words, and this particular test measures the softest sounds your child can hear. Then your child will probably have what’s known as a ‘play’ test, where the doctor will sit your child on a chair, place earphones on his or her ears, and then ask your child to do certain things. As your child responds, the responses will be noted.
Another option the doctor may use is known as a visual reinforcement audiometry test (VRA). In this test, your child is seated between two speakers, and when he or she turns his or her head in response to sounds, lights inside toys in the speakers will go on.

Otoacoustic emissions testing (OAE) is another option that your doctor has to asses your child’s hearing. In this test, a soft plastic instrument that emits sound is placed in your child’s ear. By measuring the reaction of the cells in your child’s ear, the audiologist will be able to determine whether your child’s hearing is normal or not.
All of the tests performed during a hearing test are painless, so you should not be concerned about allowing your child to be tested.

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