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August 31, 2004

Failing grade for common hearing test

Hearing test with bells and balls is useless for identifying hearing loss in infants, according to a study of the so-called BOEL hearing test. More modern electronic testing instruments should be employed instead.

Danish visiting nurses have administered infant hearing tests for the better part of 30 years in which the infants' reactions to various noises, such as bells, are observed. However, the test has been found to be insufficient, causing the health care professionals to miss instances of hearing loss and causing unnecessary worry in other cases.

In a Danish study of almost 2,500 children, the BOEL test identified none of the six deaf infants while erroneously identifying 14 percent of all the children as suffering from hearing difficulties.

The study thus confirmed similar negative results from earlier studies in Sweden and Denmark.

The BOEL test is primarily used in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. A modified version is used in the United Kingdom, Holland and Australia.

Based on the recent study, the researchers recommend that much more effective electronic screening methods replace the BOEL test. Electronic tests record the faint vibrations that come from a baby's ear in response to sounds, providing indications of hearing loss in the screened infant.

Identifying hearing loss as early as possible is of extreme importance in order to prevent the most serious effects from untreated hearing loss on the children's speech development.

Source: Ugeskrift for læger, 30. August, 2004 and www.berlingske.dk, 30. August, 2004.

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