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Pediatric Hearing Impaired Program

The Pediatric Hearing Impaired Program at ColumbiaDoctors provides a full range of services for children and infants who are affected by hearing loss. Our team of specialists is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art diagnostic evaluation and hearing loss treatment for all young people with hearing issues. We are equally committed to helping our patients and their families cope with hearing loss through a variety of speech, language, and educational services. Our team approach means that you and your child will have support throughout the process.

Pediatric Audiological Evaluations

Our pediatric audiologists have experience testing children at all stages of development. You’ll be invited to join your child in the sound booth, where the testing technique will be adapted to meet your child’s needs. Our audiologists use games and positive reinforcement as motivation for your child, in order to obtain the most accurate assessment.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Evaluations

This type of evaluation is an objective measure of the brain’s response to sound. For young infants (under six months of age), this testing can be completed in the office while the child sleeps. For older children, sedation is usually required to obtain accurate results. ABRs are particularly useful for confirmation of hearing loss or when behavioral audiological testing has been inconclusive. ABRs are also recommended for newborns who did not pass the initial hearing screening at birth. For ABR testing, electrodes will be placed on the head and ear phones will be inserted into the ear canal; no response is needed from the patient for this test. The electrodes will measure how sound travels from the ear to the brainstem.

Otoacoustic Emissions Testing (OAE)

This test is frequently used as part of the newborn hearing screening program but is useful in patient's of all ages. OAE testing measures the very soft sounds that are produced by hair cells in the inner ear, which vibrate in response to sound. If you have significant hearing loss, or a blockage in your outer or middle ear, no hair cell vibration will occur. To conduct an OAE test, your audiologist will place a small earphone, or probe, into your ear. The earphone will transmit sound into your ear and measure the sound coming back. No response is needed from the patient for this test.

Medical Evaluations

Any child diagnosed with hearing loss should undergo a thorough medical evaluation to determine any treatable forms of hearing loss, such as ear wax occluding the external canal or presence of fluid in the middle ear. This starts with a visit to the doctor.

Comprehensive clinical history and physical exam: Birth and family history can shed insight into some form of congenital hearing loss. For instance, complications with delivery resulting in low oxygen levels or infections requiring medications that may be toxic to the ear. A physical exam is also essential to rule out anatomic causes of hearing loss. In addition, there are certain craniofacial anomalies associated with hearing loss.
Genetic evaluation: Genetics account for 50-60% of the pediatric hearing loss. Genetic testing is now part of the standard protocol for etiologic cause diagnosis of hearing loss.

Imaging (CT, MRI): CT and MRI studies may sometimes be necessary if anatomical malformation is suspected. In addition, imaging is helpful in determining whether surgical intervention can be an option to address the hearing loss.

Hearing Aids

When hearing loss is diagnosed, the audiologist will make recommendations for amplification. We offer the latest technology in pediatric-friendly digital hearing aids, bone conduction hearing systems, and assistive listening devices.

Cochlear Implants

When a child has severe hearing loss that cannot be adequately treated with hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be recommended. Our cochlear implant team is highly experienced with the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of children with severe hearing loss. Learn more about pediatric cochlear implants.
A woman blows bubbles with a little boy.

Educational Services

Once a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, our education specialist will guide and support your family as you navigate the early intervention, preschool, and school-age process. These services help families make informed decisions and advocate with confidence. They also assist in providing children with the tools they need to thrive academically and socially.

  • Classroom Observation: Our education specialist observes your child in a variety of settings at the school. She will meet with your child’s teachers and therapists to discuss acoustics, assistive technology, receptive and expressive language development, academics, social/emotional development, and classroom modifications.
  • Educational Liason: Our education specialist advocates alongside parents for appropriate services, mandates, technology and modifications. This includes participation in meetings and review of IFSP, IEP and 504 plans.
  • In-Service: Training sessions for school staff, parents, and students are catered to the individual child and include a variety of topics: overview of medical/audiological management of hearing loss, ramifications of hearing loss in the school setting, strategies to address hearing and social issues, information about technology (cochlear implants, hearing aids, FMs) and how to troubleshoot, how to complete listening checks, promote an optimal listening environment, discussion of classroom acoustics and what is needed, teacher of the deaf training, speech/language training including the hierarchy of auditory skills development, ways to stimulate language, and integration of auditory-verbal techniques, and to provide resources.

ENT medical professionals sit around a table.

From left to right: Megan Kuhlmey, AuD, Melissa Oliver, MED, Stacey Platzman, M.S. CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT and Dr. Ana Kim, MD

Speech and Language (Re)habilitation Therapy

We provide comprehensive evaluations to determine the functional listening, speech, and language needs of children with hearing loss. Information gathered during the assessment will help determine specific recommendations for goals and therapy services. Our therapist is a Listening and Spoken Language Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist (LSLS Cert. AVT) and Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). She will help build auditory skills with any child no matter their primary mode of communication.