Choosing a Hearing Screener System

For a child with an undetected hearing loss, everyday is a day without full access to language, which is why it is so critical to screen children early.

There are several types of hearing screening equipment available on the market. Choosing which type of system to use depends on the facility, the age group of the children, the skill level of the screeners, and the involvement of a pediatric audiologist. When these elements are present, children with a wide range of hearing health conditions can be identified in a timely manner.

If an early childhood setting chooses to use an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) system as the screening tool of choice, there are several factors to keep in mind prior to purchasing.

The Type of Equipment

Not all OAEs are the same. A well-designed OAE screening system should allow coordinators to screen in the child's natural environment; , whether the child is asleep or moving actively. In addition, the facility should also consider the following:

  • Ease of use

  • Portability

  • Data storage capacity

  • Warranties (e.g., ability to provide a loaner if the system needs repair)

  • Availability and quality of in-service training

  • Cost (the equipment and the disposable probes)

Age of Children

Some equipment works well in nursery settings when infants are sleeping, but does not perform equally well with young children who are upright, awake and active. Some young children also may not allow the health coordinator to insert a probe into the in ear. For screening "active" children, facilities should seek a system with the capability to screen quickly. Screeners should also test several systems with various age groups and in different settings before making a final choice.

The Skills of the Screeners

Although anyone skilled in working with children can learn to conduct an OAE screening, screeners will need thorough training in the use of the equipment and in reviewing results. One of the most common errors that occur in screening is the misinterpretation of results. If the child has middle ear fluid, for example, the potential for false positive results is high. Screeners trained on the equipment would be cognizant of factors that may affect results.

In addition to purchasing a hearing screening system, facilities establishing a hearing screening protocol should also consider including a developmental and auditory check list that screeners can use to evaluate a child's developmental milestones and cultural background, elements that can affects the results.

Choosing a hearing screener system is a significant investment (in cost and people) for a facility. That's why it is critical that the facility work closely with a pediatric audiologist in selecting the tools that work best for them.

Arlene Balestra-Marko, Au.D,CCC-A, LSLS.Cert.AVT, is the founding director of Hear 2 Learn, a private facility committed to providing children with the assessment and intervention necessary for a rich and full life.

For hearing screener products, shop our Hearing Screener Category.