Wits Education Campus. St Andrews Road, Parktown 2000 info@hihopes.co.za +27 (0)11 717 3750


Frequently Asked Questions

You will find the answers to many of the questions you may have about your child’s hearing below. If your particular question is not covered, try our Message Forum. You are welcome to post questions for our team, other professionals and parents to answer.

Q: At what age can my baby’s hearing be tested?
A: Hearing can be tested a few hours after your child is born.

A small probe is inserted into the ear, a sound is presented and the response to the sound is recorded on a machine. This is called otoacoustic emission (OAE) testing. A ‘pass’ response indicates that hearing is most likely in the normal range. A ‘refer’ response generally means that another test will have to be done to confirm if there is a hearing loss or if there was a refer response due to fluid in the ear canal. It is very important you bring your baby back for a retest and if necessary further testing as soon as possible.

Communication milestones need to be continuously monitored closely and you should feel free to discuss any concerns with an audiologist (or post a message on the discussion forum on this website and a HI HOPES team member will get back to you). An OAE test will not pick up a mild hearing loss and will not pick up a condition called auditory neuropathy, so for this reason parents are encouraged to follow up on any areas of concern.

Q: What is the cause of my child’s hearing loss?
A: 50% of hearing loss is of unknown cause.

Common causes of hearing loss are high fevers, meningitis, respiratory distress syndrome, admission to ICU of greater than 5 days at birth, jaundice requiring blood transfusion, prematurity, infections and viruses such as measles and mumps, as well as some syndromes.

If your child has experienced any of the above conditions, it is extremely important that his/her hearing be tested as soon as possible. You should contact your audiologist with any queries about hearing and communication milestone concerns.

Q: Will an X-ray be able to tell me about my child’s hearing loss?
A: An x-ray will provide information on the structure of the ear and whether everything is fine for sound to travel down the ear.

However, it will not be able to provide information on whether a hearing loss is present or what the degree and type of hearing loss is. To find out about the level of hearing loss a hearing test needs to be done.

Q: How will my child’s hearing be tested?
A: If your baby’s hearing is tested at birth a small probe will be inserted into the ear and the response to sound measured. This is called otoacoustic emission (OAE) testing. The test is painless and requires a few minutes to complete. An Automated Auditory Brainstem Response Test (AABR) which requires a few electrodes to be attached to the child’s head can also be done. This requires a sleeping or quiet infant as it is affected by movement.

If the child is older than 6 months the OAE and ABR can still be completed but will require that the child be very still and thus may require that the child be sedated.

From around 6 months, once the child has head control behavioural testing can be done. The child sits on the mother’s lap and a sound is presented form either side of the room. The child’s response to sound is observed. This may include turning his head toward the sound source or stopping an activity to listen. This response to sound is reinforced by a flashing light or character. This method of testing is called Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA).

Q: My child has failed a hearing screening, what do I do now?
A: The ‘fail’ or ‘refer’ outcome can be due to a number of reasons. It is very important that your child has a second screen and if a refer response is obtained on the second screen that you take the child for diagnostic testing to an audiologist. Click here for a lists of audiologists in your area.
Q: Can hearing loss be cured?
A: Although we currently have very advanced technology, permanent hearing loss cannot be cured. It can be appropriately managed with the use of hearing aids or a cochlear implant, but once these devices are taken off (at night or to bath/swim) the child is still deaf.

A temporary loss can be caused by infections and fluid in the middle ear. If the infections are appropriately treated, then hearing thresholds should return to within the normal range. If ear infections are left untreated for an extended period of time, this can lead to a permanent loss.

Q: Will my child be able to get a cochlear implant?
A: A cochlear implant is a device for a person who does not get any benefit from hearing aids, e.g. if the loss is too profound for hearing aids to provide benefit.

The decision to have a cochlear implant involves meeting a number of criteria, and is a decision that will have to be made with the multidisciplinary team.

Q: Will my child be able to go to a regular school?
A: We believe every child can and should achieve to their full potential, and this includes school placement. The type of school will depend on your child’s unique needs, strengths and challenges. The decision should ideally be made as part of a multidisciplinary team.
Q: Will my child have to learn Sign Language?
A: Communication modality is an important decision and one that is family specific, depending on the family’s needs and wishes. You can make an informed decision on communication modality once you are aware of all the options available.

Families in the HI HOPES programme have the option of being introduced to Deaf individuals who use the different communication modalities. Should parents choose Sign Language or Total Communication, they will be allocated a Deaf Mentor to help the family to learn how to communication in Sign Language or using Total Communication.

Q: My child has frequent ear infections – what can I do about it?
A: Ear infections have to be appropriately treated by an ENT specialist. If the infections recur despite medication and antibiotics, it might be necessary for your child to have grommets put in to drain all the excess fluid.

Ear infections cause a temporary conductive loss which may become permanent if left untreated. Your child’s hearing has to be tested regularly and communication and language milestones monitored.

HI HOPES provides services for children with conductive losses so that language development can be facilitated.

Q: I use private health services – do I still qualify for HI HOPES services?
A: HI HOPES services are free to all families whether they use private or public health services.
Q: My child goes to speech therapy – is the HI HOPES service still necessary?
A: HI HOPES does not replace traditional speech therapy or audiology services. HI HOPES is a home-based support service aimed at empowering parents so they understand all aspects of hearing loss, as well as the importance of attending audiology and speech therapy appointments.
Q: My child turns towards loud noises and if I call him he hears me. Does this mean he does not have a hearing loss?
A: There are different degrees of hearing loss. Your child may be able to hear loud noises but he may not be able to hear softer sounds or sounds of a certain pitch (frequency), e.g. some children may hear the banging of a drum but not a siren.

It is important to have your child’s hearing tested by an audiologist to get a full picture of what he/she can hear across all the different frequencies and volumes.