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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Chapter 5: What can your child hear? > To get the best results

A small child sits on his mother's lap.

The parent should

  • hold the child steady on her lap, but freely enough that the child can turn around.
  • not react to any of the sounds made by the tester.

Can the child hear speech sounds?

Speech sounds also have differences in pitch. The speech sounds 't', 'd', 's', and 'sh', for example, have a higher pitch than sounds like 'oo', 'ee', and 'm'. This means your child may be able to hear some speech sounds but not others.

It will help to know if your child can hear high, middle, or low-pitch speech sounds, and how loud the sounds have to be for him to hear them. Try to notice the sounds he seems to hear when family members speak.

Children may seem to understand words when it is really the situation that makes the meaning clear. If someone says "Get the ball," while pointing or looking at it, the child may go to get the ball. He may not have heard the word but may have seen the person pointing at the ball.

To find out if he is hearing words or not, use 3 or 4 familiar objects in a game or as part of a daily task he already knows. Do this several times to find out if your child hears the names for the objects.

First, say the words without any clues. Then, if your child did not understand the words alone, say the words, then look at the object.
alt=A woman sits beside a ball and her child as she thinks, then speaks.
Let me see if Kwame can hear what I say.
Get your ball.
A woman speaks as she sits beside a ball and her child.
Get your ball.
If your child still does not understand, say the words, then look and point to the object.
A woman sits with a small child while she speaks and points to a ball.
Get your ball.

Your child may also seem to hear sounds some times but not always. This does not mean your child is being stubborn. He just does not hear you. Many things can affect how he responds to sounds — like the time of day, hunger, or how your child is feeling that day. Colds and ear infections can also affect children's hearing temporarily.

Check for speech sounds a baby or child can hear

In a speech test, instead of shaking a can to make a sound, the tester makes the sounds using his voice.

In this test you will use simple sounds.

  1. The sound 'm-m-m-m-m' (humming) (low-pitch sound).
  2. The sound 'oo-oo-oo-oo' ('oo' as in 'boot') (middle-pitch sound).
  3. The sound 's-s-s-s-s' (hissing) (high-pitch sound).

The soft sound should be as quiet as possible. Ask a person with normal hearing to listen to you and tell you if she can hear the sound when you say it softly.

A man stands behind his wife and child and makes a sound.

The test is done in the same way as the loudness and pitch test. You start with the lowest pitch 'm-m-m-m', making the sound softly for 3 to 4 seconds behind the child's left ear. Continue in the same way — softer to louder, left ear then right ear, lower pitch to higher pitch. Be careful not to increase pitch as you increase the loudness.

Children can help too

Children can also play an important role in helping to check the hearing of brothers, sisters, and other children in the community.

How to check babies 4 months and older

A girl shakes a rattle at her baby brother, who is crawling away from her.
  • Make a rattle from a can or gourd with small stones inside. A child can creep up quietly behind the baby. Make sure the baby does not see you first. Shake the rattle behind her head, first on one side and then the other. See if she is surprised.
A girl speaks to her baby sister, who lies face down.
  • Call the baby's name from different places in the room. See if she responds in any way.

Ways to check young children's hearing

Game: What's that animal? Make one child the speaker and have him stand 4 meters (12 feet) from a line of younger children. Behind each young child stands an older child with a pencil and paper.

3 small children stand facing an older child; another older child stands behind each small child.

First, the speaker uses a very loud voice to say the name of a common animal.

The young children whisper the name they heard to their older partners. The older children write that down on a piece of paper.

Then the speaker names other animals, each one more quietly, until he is whispering. The older children write down every name that the young children tell them.

After the speaker has named about 10 animals, and the younger children's words have been written down, compare the lists. Any child who has not heard as many words as the others, or has not heard them correctly, may have a hearing problem.