An audiologist is the health professional who specializes in the assessment and management of hearing loss and related problems, such as auditory processing, tinnitus (noises in the ears) and vertigo (balance). Through the variety of tests audiologists determine the exact nature of an individual's hearing difficulty, and can advise people on appropraite options for management including hearing aids, assistive listening devices, aural rehabilitation and referral.


Approximately 1 of every 1,000 children is born with a profound hearing loss and many other children are born with less severe degrees of hearing impairment. Others develop hearing impairment during childhood. Such hearing losses interfere with the development of speech and language skills and can have a negative effect on social, emotional, cognitive and academic development. Moreover delayed identification and management of severe to profound hearing impairment may impede the child's ability to adapt to life in a hearing world.

The first 3 years of life are regarded as the crucial period for speech and language development. Currently, although there are several methods for identifiying hearing loss within the first year of life, the average age of identification remains close to 3 years. Lesser degrees of hearing loss may go undetected for longer.

Resent research has shown that children with normal cognitive skills identified before 6 months of age of develop language skills normally. Hearing screening can be done at any age, even as early as just after birth. Children should routinely have their hearing tested before they start school. Lesser degrees of hearing loss or hearing loss in one ear may be determined this way. Such deficits, although not obvious, may negatively affect speech and language development.

If you suspect your child is not hearing normally, even if your child's doctor is not concerned, have your child's hearing tested by an audiologist and when appropriate, have his or her speech evaluated by a speech and language pathologist.

The early identification of a hearing loss has significant positive benefits in terms of facilitating speech and language development.


- A History of German Measles, certain viral infections (Cytomegalovirus)
- Alcohol and drug consumption

The New Born (Birth to 28 days)
- Low APGAR score
- Low birth weight (less than 1.5kg)
- Time spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit - especially where ventilation was required
- Bacterial Meningitis.
- Neonatal Jaundice - which requires medication or a transfusion.
- Cranial abnormalities (an unusual appearance of the face or ears).
- A history of ototoxic antibiotics given intravenous
- Family members with a permanent hearing loss.

The Infant (29 days to Age 3 years)
- Parent /caregiver concerned about speech/language or developmental delay.
- Recurrent middle ear infections.
- Bacterial Meningitis.
- History of ototoxic antibiotics given intravenously
- Presence of neurological problems and/or head injury.


New Born (Birth to 28 days)
- Your child does not move, startle, cry or react to unexpected sound

The Infant (28 days to 6 months)
- Your child does not imitate sound freely

The Infant (6 to 12 months)
- Your child does not turn his/her head in the direction of the sound
- Your child id not babbling, or his babbling has stopped
- Your child does not point to fimiliar objects or people when asked to
- Your child does not understand simple phrases such as "Wave bye-bye" or "Clap your hands"   without the use of visual cues

The Infant (13 months to 2 years)
- Your child does not turn his/her head in the direction of a soft voice or when called by name
- Your child is not using sounds or speech like other children of the same age
- Your child is not taking note of environmental sounds
- Your child is not imitating sounds or words of familiar objects in their direct environment
- Your child does not listen to the television at a normal volume
- Your child frequently uses "uhh" or requests repetition



If you have noted one or more of these indicators it would be advisable to have your child's hearing tested. This can be done at any age.

If you did not note any of these indicators, but are still concerned, impress upon your doctor your desire to be referred to an audiologist, and if indicated a speech therapist. Such referrals are recognised by the Health Professionals Council and the costs are usually covered by your Medical Aid.

A delay in the diagnosis of a child's hearing problem has been found to affect speech and language development, which has implications for academic potential.

For further information contact: 031 261 4779