This is a HealthLine Online content page created by Healthwise. HealthLine Online helps you make better decisions about your health.

Screening for Hearing Problems

Overview

In adults

Gradual hearing loss can affect people of all ages. You may not be aware of it, but your friends and family may notice. If you have concerns about your hearing, talk to your doctor during routine visits. If you have sudden hearing loss, call your doctor right away.

In children

Experts recommend that all newborns be screened for hearing loss.footnote 1, footnote 2 Most provinces and territories in Canada offer newborn hearing tests for all babies born in hospitals. Talk to your doctor about whether your child has been or should be tested. Even if the newborn test did not show hearing loss, hearing problems could arise.

Hearing tests may be a part of routine checkups.

Some hearing problems can delay your child's speech and language development. Early screening for hearing loss can help prevent many learning, social, and emotional problems that can be related to speech and language development.footnote 1

In most hearing tests, your child responds to how well they hear a series of tones or words (subjective testing). Hearing is also tested by examining your child's ears or by using an instrument to measure how the ears react to sound (objective testing). In objective testing, your child is not asked to respond to sounds.

Call your doctor if at any time you suspect your child has a hearing problem, such as if your baby does not seem to respond to loud noises or your young child is not making sounds or talking at the expected ages.

Watching for signs of hearing problems in children

During routine checkup visits, your doctor checks your baby's growth and development to see if your baby is reaching the milestones for each age. Between visits, you can also watch for these signs of normal hearing development. If you are concerned that your child is not reaching these milestones, talk with your doctor about testing your child for hearing problems.

Newborn to age 3 months

Does your baby:

  • Listen to speech?
  • Turn to you when you speak?
  • Smile when spoken to?
  • Seem to recognize your voice?
  • Quiet their crying when you speak?
  • Startle or cry at noises?
  • Awaken to loud sounds?

Ages 4 to 6 months

Does your baby:

  • Respond to changes in your voice?
  • Look around for the source of sounds?
  • Notice toys that make sound?

Ages 7 months to 1 year

Does your baby:

  • Listen when spoken to?
  • Turn or look up when you call their name?
  • Respond to requests like "come here" or "want more?"
  • Recognize words for common items like cup, shoe, or juice?

Ages 1 to 2 years

Pay attention to the quality of your child's speech. Children must be able to hear well for normal speech and language to develop.

And keep watching your child's behaviour. Does your child:

  • Listen to simple stories, songs, or rhymes?
  • Follow simple commands and understand simple questions, such as "roll the ball," "kiss the baby," or "where is your shoe?"
  • Point to a few body parts when asked?
  • Point to pictures in a book when they are named?

Ages 2 to 4 years

Keep paying attention to the quality of your child's speech and their behaviour.

Does your child:

  • Follow two requests, such as "Get the ball and put it on the table?"
  • Continue to notice sounds, such as a telephone ringing, television sounds, or knocking at the door?

Ages 4 and older

By the age of 4, your child may tell you they are having trouble hearing or understanding others. You can ask your child questions about their hearing.

Also, does your child:

  • Follow complicated instructions, such as "Take your coat to your bedroom and bring a book to read"?
  • Respond to sounds appropriately, such as a telephone ringing, television sounds, or knocking at the door?

Your child's teacher may notice behaviour that would mean your child is not hearing well, such as talking in a loud voice or not following instructions.

References

Citations

  1. Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (2019). Year 2019 Position Statement: Principles and guidelines for early hearing detection and intervention programs. Journal of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, 4(2), 1–44. DOI: 10.15142/fptk-b748. Accessed January24, 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Screening and diagnosis of hearing loss. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/screening.html#:~:text=All%20babies%20should%20be%20screened,than%203%20months%20of%20age. Accessed January 24, 2023.

Credits

Current as of: September 27, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

Contact Information

Contact the SHA

Contact us with General Inquiries or Feedback About Your Care, the SHA is here to help.

Help Information

Emergency

If you believe you have an emergency, dial 911.

Questions?

If you have questions about your health, dial 811 on your phone or visit HealthLine Online.