What Does a Pediatric Audiologist Do?
In short, pediatric audiologists are professionals who examine children for hearing loss and related issues. They perform hearing tests and evaluations to determine the presence, extent, and reason for hearing loss in babies, toddlers, children, and teens.
They are highly specialized at recognizing signs of hearing loss early on. This is important because early intervention is the best course of action to prevent further hearing loss when possible and to help a child have the best hearing possible so that their speech and language development can be as close to “on target” as possible.
After determining the presence and extent of hearing loss, pediatric audiologists provide the appropriate intervention so as to prevent further hearing loss and to treat any hearing damage.
Treatment may include hearing aids or implants, as well as speech, language, and occupational therapies.
When to See a Pediatric Audiologist
Speech and behavioral issues in the classroom are a main first indicator of a possible late-onset hearing problem. These issues arrive if a child has trouble hearing instructions from parents and teachers.
Indicators in children include:
- Speaks loudly
- Attention problems
- Only responds when facing you
- Frequently says “huh?” or ask for words to be repeated
- Has trouble following directions
- Has a delayed reaction or no response when called upon
If you believe your child may have hearing problems, it's best to contact an audiologist for an initial screening. Some states and organizations provide free hearing screenings for young children, so look out for this opportunity while your child is still young.
One main job of a pediatric audiologist is to perform newborn hearing screenings. In some states the newborn hearing screening is required by law, while in other states it is strongly recommended.
Pediatric audiologists perform hearing screenings on newborns. Some of them perform the initial hearing screening after an infant is born in the hospital.
Others only perform follow-up screenings in their office if a newborn's hospital exam came back as possibly positive (meaning the infant may have a hearing loss) or as inconclusive.
For certain at-risk newborns and children, it may be recommended that they undergo periodic hearing screenings throughout childhood to monitor any changes in hearing and to watch for any signs of hearing damage later in life.
What If My Child Has Hearing Loss?
The pediatric audiologist will design and implement a treatment plan which may include hearing aids, a cochlear implant, or treatment of any underlying medical conditions.
Some children may benefit from surgery, and some children will also be referred to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) to work with the audiologist in determining the best care plan.
A pediatric audiologist will also typically refer you to these specialists:
- Speech and Language Pathologist / Therapist
- Sign Language Teacher and Interpreter
- Occupational Therapist
These specialists can help your child get the best therapies to help them learn and grow and normally as possible. They can help them learn sign language, develop speech and language skills, and learn to live practically with their hearing loss.
Remember that early intervention is the key if you believe your child may have hearing damage. Don't hesitate to get your child in for a hearing screening (which is painless) if you believe there may be an issue.
It will give you piece of mind, and it will allow your child the best chance at getting the best possible treatment if needed.