Recognizing Pediatric Hearing Problems Such As Auditory Neuropathy

Shortly after birth, newborns undergo a test that's known as a newborn hearing screen. The goal of this test is to recognize the potential for hearing loss in newborns, because early detection can help set the stage for intervention. One common cause of this hearing loss is a condition called auditory neuropathy. It affects the way that the nerves in the inner ear and the cochlea process sounds. If you have any reason to suspect that your child may have auditory neuropathy, it's in your best interest to find an audiologist as soon as possible. Here is a look at what you can expect of the process.

Auditory Neuropathy Requires Testing To Diagnose

The audiologist will have to conduct a series of hearing tests to definitively identify the presence of auditory neuropathy or not. The two primary tests are usually completed as part of the newborn hearing screen, with the potential for other follow-ups based on the results.

  • Testing The Auditory Brainstem - One of the tests completed checks out the response from the auditory brainstem. In this test, small electrodes are attached behind the ears and on your child's head. Then, a set of earphones will be placed on your child's ears. Sounds will be passed through the earphones so that the electrodes can detect the auditory nerve's response.
  • Testing The Otoacoustic Emissions - This test uses earphones as well. Several different tones will be transmitted through the earphones, while a microphone integrated into those earphones will test the echo response from the inner ear. This tells the audiologist how the inner ear responds to sound.

Most babies diagnosed with auditory neuropathy will show appropriate response in the otoacoustic emissions testing, which shows that the inner ear is functioning the way that it should. However, children with this condition will show poor response from the auditory brainstem testing.

There Are Signs To Watch For

If the signs of auditory neuropathy aren't clearly apparent on the initial newborn hearing screen, it's possible that your child may pass the testing and still have the condition. It can take some time for symptoms to become apparent. You may start to notice that your child isn't responding consistently to the sounds around them or they may have trouble with speech recognition and isolation, especially in noisy areas.

If you are concerned about your child's hearing for any reason, it's in your best interest to seek a referral to an audiologist who specializes in pediatric hearing problems. Paired with the information here, you'll be better equipped to not only recognize but address hearing issues. For more information, contact professionals like Mark Montgomery MD FACS.