Periodic hearing and sight tests are an integral part of preventative pediatric healthcare. Performing regular checks from birth can avoid a number of problems including, adverse effects on social development, difficulty learning to read, deficits in speech and language acquisition and poor academic performance.
It is standard to perform a hearing assessment on all newborns to identify congenital hearing loss. The test we use is the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). This involves placing a tiny probe inside the ear canal that measures the response (echo) when clicks or tones are payed.
The test is very simple to perform and can even be carried out whilst the child sleeps.
If a child does not pass the newborn screening test, it does not necessarily mean they are hard of hearing. In fact, 1-2% of all children will fail due to fluid in the ears, or background noise. In these instances, further testing is recommended before the age of 3 months.
Not all hearing loss is present from birth. Some children develop hearing loss following frequent ear infections, illnesses such as meningitis or measles, head injury or premature birth. Careful monitoring is recommended if your child falls into any of these categories. Additional screening tests are recommended for all children at the ages of 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and then every three years during adolescence. Parents and guardians can also monitor for signs of hearing loss, for example:
- Baby does not startle or turn head towards loud noises
- No enjoyment from being read to
- Slow to talk and cannot enunciate basic words such as ‘mama’ and ‘dadda’ by age of 15 months
- Does not respond when called
- Seems to hear some sounds, but not others
- Turns the TV volume higher than required by other members of the household.
It is important not to panic if your child does not pass their hearing screen, our dedicated specialists are right here to answer all your questions and the sooner a hearing problem is identified, the sooner measures can be put in place to rectify the issue.
As with hearing tests, it is advisable to perform visual screening checks throughout childhood. Early detection of serious problems means that remedial measures can be put in place to prevent complete loss of sight.
The screening test used varies slightly depending on the age of the child. From birth until the age of 3 the following procedures are most frequently implemented:
- Ability to fix on and follow objects with their eyes
- External eye assessment
- Ocular motility assessment – do the muscles surrounding the eye enable movement
- Pupil examination – check that they are equal, round and reactive to light
- Red reflex examination – the reddish reflection of light from the back of the eye.
After the child turns three, as well as the above checks, the following will also be attempted:
- Visual acuity measurements – the clarity of vision. If the child is too young to read letters off a chart, then picture cards are used instead
- Ophthalmoscopy – checks the optic nerve and the back of the eye
- Distance acuity – looks for short sightedness (an inability to see things clearly at distance)
- Ocular alignment
- Cataracts check.
Parental observation is very important, particularly when it comes to identifying unexplained changes. The questions our experts will ask include:
- Can your child see? Do they respond to objects brought into their line of vision?
- Do they hold items close to their face when trying to focus?
- Are their eyes straight, or do they drift to the side? Do they have crossed eyes or lazy eyes?
- Do their eyelids droop? Does one eye remain shut?
- Have they ever injured their eyes?
As part of our holistic care package we will also take a detailed family history, identifying prior eye disorders and sight-related problems.