My Child Failed the Hearing Screening at Their Well Visit — Now What?

Published on in Health Tip of the Week

Child getting hearing checked Let’s imagine you are at your child’s 5-year well visit and your primary care provider (PCP) says your child did not pass their hearing screening. You know your child had passed their newborn hearing screening, so is this cause for concern? You may go home and wonder, “Is my child ignoring me when I call them, or is my child not hearing me?” or “Is that why my child listens to the TV so loud?”

Hearing is important for so many things in a child’s life! Hearing loss, left untreated, can impact speech and language development, social-emotional wellness, and academic achievement.

As questions and concerns set in, do not worry. Follow-up testing will provide the answers.

Cause of failed hearing test may be temporary

The purpose of a hearing screening is to detect possible hearing loss. There are different reasons why a child does not pass their hearing screening, and one of the reasons may be that they are having difficulty hearing.

This difficulty could be due to something temporary, such as an outer- or middle-ear problem (examples are middle-ear fluid or earwax) or it may be something more permanent in nature involving the inner ear.

Other factors that could impact hearing screening results are environmental (such as noise in the hallway during the testing) or behavioral (such as a child does not understand instructions or was not paying attention). Regardless of the reason your child did not pass their screening, additional testing is needed.

Your PCP may schedule a visit for your child to have their hearing rescreened in the primary care office. This is often recommended if your child had a cold at the visit or if the provider performing the screening felt your child was not paying attention or was just having an off day.

Visiting an audiologist for testing

Your PCP may also refer you directly to an audiologist. An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems. The audiologist will perform tests as part of the hearing evaluation, and children typically find the visit easy, painless and fun! The audiologist determines which testing activity will be most appropriate to engage your child. 

In fact, children often comment that it is pretty “cool” to sit in a sound booth.

If your child has a history of outer- or middle-ear problems — such as repeated ear infections — your PCP may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in the ears, nose and throat (ENT). Depending on the medical issue and type of hearing loss, the ENT specialist may suggest a medical intervention that could improve your child’s hearing.

Whether help comes from ENT or Audiology, the goal is to quickly find and address the cause of any potential hearing loss to keep your child on track with their speech and language development, which influences their social skills and school success.

Hearing also provides a sense of safety and security in your child’s environment. All of these factors contribute to your child’s well-being. If your child did not pass their hearing screening, do not wait to schedule follow-up testing. The audiologist will be there to help you understand the results of testing, answer any questions and if needed, guide you through next steps for your child.

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Contributed by: Sarah McKay, AuD, CCC-A


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