When Can Your Baby Have a Visual Reinforcement Orientation Hearing Test?
If you think that your baby has some hearing problems, then your doctor may have talked to you about hearing tests. Some of these tend to start with behavioural tests that assess basic responses to sounds. While useful, these tests can't give a full picture of hearing loss at this stage. As babies develop, they may also be sent for a visual reinforcement orientation test. This is a more advanced hearing assessment, but your doctor may not recommend it just yet because your baby is too young.
How does this test work and how old does your baby need to be before they can have one?
How Does a Visual Reinforcement Orientation Test Work?
Visual reinforcement orientation hearing tests combine visual and auditory responses. Unlike more basic tests which simply measure your baby's physical reaction to certain sounds, this kind of test uses visual stimuli to measure hearing more accurately.
For example, during the test your baby will be shown something that they are likely to be interested in. This is often something bright and fun, like a puppet.
Your baby is only shown the puppet when they hear a sound. Once they learn how the game works, they should automatically look in the direction of a sound to find the puppet.
The aim of the test is to assess your baby's hearing by making them turn towards different types and levels of sounds to see the puppet. If they don't turn their head at any point, then this is a sign they aren't hearing the sound that was played.
How Old Does Your Baby Need to Be to Have This Test?
Visual reinforcement orientation tests aren't used on younger babies. They may hear sounds, but they may not be able to reliably turn their heads towards them. Your baby needs to be able to turn their head to take this test. This is a skill that can take time to fully develop.
Typically, although babies start to turn their heads when they hear familiar sounds, like their parents' voices, quite early, it can take them longer to turn their heads accurately to locate unfamiliar sounds, especially if the sounds are a distance away or behind them. You're generally looking at an age of at least 6 months here.
Bear in mind that babies all develop at different rates, so it may take a little longer before your child is ready for this kind of test. If you want your baby's hearing tested earlier, then your doctor may also send them for a behavioural test to get the ball rolling. If you have more questions about hearing tests, contact a hearing specialist.