Does your toddler have an upcoming hearing test with an audiologist?
Here are some things you can do ahead of time to help prepare them for the experience.
1. Desensitize your child’s ears.
During the audiology appointment, there is going to be a lot of attention placed on your child’s ears. If they have never had their ears touched before, the experience could be off-putting. In the days leading up to the appointment, try playing a game of pretend ear doctor with your child. Gently tug on the top part of their ear and look inside their ear canal. Let your child pretend to be the doctor and take a look inside your ear.
If you have a play doctor kit at home, investigate one another’s ears with the otoscope, like the one shown below. Talk to your child about how the otoscope works like a magnifying glass and a flashlight at the same time! It lets the doctor see deep inside of the ear and check if it is healthy.
2. Practice wearing headphones.
An audiology exam is more effective if the child is comfortable wearing headphones or earbuds. This allows the audiologist to get ear specific information. In the days leading up to the appointment, familiarize your child with headphones or earbuds. Help your child get used to having something in the ears by putting headphones or earbuds on them while they are doing something they like. You can play music through the headphones, but make sure it is not too loud.
3. Work on repeating words on cue
Have your child repeat words to you. For example, ask them to repeat words by showing them familiar objects “Say dog. Say spoon. Say cup.” If they are too young to repeat words, ask them “Where is your arm? Where is your head?” helping them to focus on listening. Bring attention to everyday sounds your child may hear. If the doorbell chimes, say “Listen, do you hear that?”
4. Try a conditioned play activity.
A big part of testing toddlers is what’s called conditioned play audiometry.
This is when the child performs a simple action, such as putting a peg in a board, on cue of when they hear a sound. Practice coordinating a child’s play with a sound. For example, when your child is cleaning up their blocks, have them wait for you to say, “beep” before putting each block in the bucket.
Here is a video example of conditioned play audiometry:
Our goal as audiologists is to disguise the hearing evaluation as a game. This “play” aspect helps to keep the child engaged and happy while testing. Practicing these simple parts of the appointment at home takes the newness out of the experiences for the child, making the trip to the audiologist less intimidating and more enjoyable.