Tests to screen hearing ability are quick and cost-effective ways to separate people into two categories. People who pass the screening are presumed to have normal hearing. People who fail the screening are referred for an in-depth hearing assessment by an audiologist to determine if a hearing problem exists. There are several different screening procedures that can be used depending upon the patient’s age and abilities.
Newborns and infants are screened by non-invasive, objective physiologic measures such as otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) and/or auditory brainstem response (ABR). These tests are done quickly and painlessly while the infant is resting quietly.
The most appropriate screening tests for children between the ages of seven months to three years are visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) and conditioned play audiometry (CPA). Both of these tests are behavioral in nature and require the child’s involvement and cooperation.
Finally, conventional audiometry, where individuals raise their hand when they hear a tone, is typically used to screen for hearing loss in people aged four years to adult.
A warning about telephone screening:
- Telephone screening for hearing loss has limitations. Hearing screening by telephone can alert the public to hearing loss and may convince many people to seek a more complete hearing evaluation. But according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Committee on Audiologic Evaluation, telephone hearing screening has serious limitations. These limitations include:
- Test signals are limited to frequencies below 3000 Hz so hearing at higher frequencies, important for understanding speech, is not screened.
- The signal that is actually heard varies depending on the type of answering machine used to conduct the tests, the telephone transmission lines, the type of telephone used by the caller, background noise and the position of the telephone relative to the listener’s ear.
Due to these limitations, two persons calling the same telephone screening number from different telephones may actually receive different tests. In fact, the same person using the same telephone may not receive exactly the same test each time he or she calls. Therefore, the results from telephone hearing screening should be viewed with caution.