A visit to the audiologist shouldn’t be a reason for children (or adults) to be apprehensive. Regardless of which type of test the hearing provider performs, it shouldn’t cause pain or discomfort. While it’s easy for an adult to understand this, children who haven’t frequented a hearing clinic might still feel frightened or insecure if they don’t know what to expect. As parents, it’s important to help your child feel emotionally and mentally prepared for what a hearing test or exam will involve.

First of all, hearing practitioners who regularly see young patients will kindly and carefully explain – in detail – everything to expect, in language both you and your child will understand. They might use descriptions similar to those in the following list, so feel free to use them as talking points as you prepare your child for their hearing exam.

The otoscope exam: One of the first things a hearing care provider will do is use a small light known as an otoscope to exam the inside of your child’s ears. The professional will come in close proximity and may pull very gently on your child’s ears in order to get a better view of the ear canal. Essentially, they’re looking for obvious signs of damage that might explain any hearing problems your child is having.

Eardrum (tympanometry) test: In this test, the audiologist will briefly place a small, rubbery speaker plug in your child’s ear. Although it doesn’t hurt, a child may feel pressure from the eardrum responding to the air that enters the tube. They will also hear sound through the device’s speaker, but will not be required to respond. The purpose of the test is to check for proper flexibility in the eardrum, which is hindered in children who have fluid build-up or damage. 

Hearing tests: In these tests, your child will be fitted with headphones. If very young, they may be allowed to stay on your lap, but otherwise they’ll be placed in a small, soundproof room separated by one-way glass. The hearing provider will explain to your child how to respond – whether raising their hand, clicking a button – whenever they hear sounds. Alternatively, the hearing professional may ask you child to repeat back words or phrases after they’ve been spoken. 

Inner ear test: If the hearing practitioner needs to test for inner ear problems, your child will be fitted with a special speaker headband that fits snugly behind the ear (usually one end in front of an ear and the other end behind an ear). This test is designed to pick up vibrations created by the bones in the ear responding to sound. It shows the hearing healthcare provider which path the sound waves travel and if they are hindered by inner ear malfunction or damage.