How To Check Your Child’s Hearing In Two Easy Steps

Several weeks ago, we were concerned that my son had a hearing problem. He’s four and a half years old and always taking loudly. When we speak to him at times he doesn’t respond the first time. We often have to shout his name to get his attention. So you are probably thinking, “Well, good morning. Our kids don’t listen to us.”

Well it was actually more than that. At times when we would be riding in the minivan, he would complain that he couldn’t hear the music well when everyone else could. Other times when we would whisper to see if he could hear us the results varied. Sometimes it seemed like he could hear us while other times it seemed like he couldn’t. As a result, we decided to schedule an appointment with our doctor to test his hearing. He performed two tests to check his ability to hear regular and faint sounds.

Here’s what you do:

Step one
Find a picture that has multiple things in it and without looking at your child ask them in a normal voice if they see one of the items in the picture. For example, if it’s a picture of different colored animals ask him he could see the red dog.

This exercise tests their ability to hear your voice without reading your lips whether or not they could actually read your lips. They are solely responding to the sound of your voice.

Step two
Take a Timex watch or similar device that produces a loud enough ticking sound that can only be heard when holding the device up to your ear.

Hold it up against your child’s ear and ask him if he could hear the ticking. If he says “Yes” then hold the watch at arms distance from his ear and ask him if he could still hear it. This is necessary because it checks to see if they really heard the ticking the first time. If they tell you that they could still hear the ticking when the watch is held two feet away and you know that it’s not possible to hear it unless you have super hearing then they might not have been too truthful the first time around.

With this second step, make sure that you are using something that produces an audible sound. Check to see if you could hear the ticking yourself. I have a Fossil watch and the ticking is so faint that I really need to concentrate to hear the ticks. A watch like this might work well if you are testing your dog’s hearing but it won’t work with your child.

If you suspect there’s a problem then schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. Keep in mind that it’s possible your child just has an ear infection.

This post was submitted to the December 17 edition of the Carnival of Family Life hosted over at Adventures In Juggling.

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7 Responses

  1. JHS says:

    Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted by Adventures in Juggling. Be sure to visit on Monday and check out some of the other wonderful entries!

  2. Suzanne says:

    The only way to test a child’s hearing is to have a qualified audiologist give him or her a full hearing test. The two steps described here would not detect hearing loss in most children. It takes a trained professional to test a child’s hearing. If you suspect your child has a hearing loss it is very important to have it checked asap by an audiologist. Hearing loss can have a negative affect on development, especially language. You can find an audiologist in your area at the following web site:

  3. Eric says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    First, thank you for the feedback.

    After reading your comment I wanted to verify the information in my post so I did a google search.

    I came across an interesting article that actually backs up the information in my post. The article is posted several places online but you could read it here:

    An excerpt from the article states the following:

    “The first steps are used to estimate the need for an audiogram. The specific procedures may vary, but they generally involve blocking one ear at a time and checking for the ability to hear whispers, then spoken words or the sound of a ticking watch.”

    In most cases a parent would need a referral from their child’s doctor before going straight to an audiologists. Pediatricians are trained to perform screening tests to determine if further testing is necessary.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thank you for responding.

    I’m very surprised at and disappointed in the NY Times. Using whispers and tuning forks went out with the middles ages! Generally, it is advised that if a parent suspects a hearing loss, that they get a referral and have the child’s hearing tested by an audiologist. Some physicians use the “wait and see” approach, but this has proven to be very damaging if a child does have a hearing loss. It means they are identified later and they miss out on an important window of opportunity for learning speech and language (called the “critical” or “sensitive” period). Also, most children have a remarkable ability to appear as if they can hear when they indeed cannot. Or, they have partial hearing and can hear enough to “pass” this informal test, but not enough for the complex task of learning language and communicating in a noisy classroom (classroom acoustics are notoriously bad). Therefore, by not going for a formal hearing test, the child can miss a lot of time before getting hearing aids and/or learning sign language. Often, children with partial hearing (hard-of-hearing) are labeled as “uncooperative” “dull” “pays attention when s/he wants to” but in fact it is the hearing loss that can be helped with a hearing aid and visual aids. Here is a link from the American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association’s web site on how to tell if you or your child has a hearing loss. It includes a “self test” This web site focuses on hearing testing: I hope this is useful.

  5. Anonymous says:

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  1. December 17, 2007

    […] not hear low tones. Eric Ellen offers some great advice that all young parents should consider in How to Check Your Child’s Hearing in Two Easy Steps. I can’t stress enough how important early detection and intervention is to your […]

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