East Dorset Paediatric Audiology Service

Our service provides hearing assessment and on-going audiological management for children living in east Dorset.
The children we see range from new born babies to school leaving age, and include those with complex additional needs.
We provide a family friendly, patient orientated service, working in close partnership with the child or young person and their family, and with our colleagues in the education and health sectors.

When your child is referred to audiology

Referrals can be received from a number of sources, including the newborn hearing screening programme, GP, health visitor, school nurse or paediatrician.  The service will contact the family by post with an appointment letter which will contain our contact details.

If you are unable to make this appointment please contact us as soon as possible to rearrange the date, and to enable the appointment to be offered to another family.

The hearing assessment appointment

The location, type and length of the appointment will depend on the age of your child and any additional factors. At the appointment we will:

  • discuss any concerns regarding your child’s hearing you may have
  • ask you related questions relevant to hearing
  • look in your child’s ears
  • complete a hearing assessment appropriate for your child
  • discuss any results obtained, and with you form an individual management plan for your child.

Following the appointment we will send a report containing the assessment results and plan to you, and to relevant professionals such as the referrer and the GP.

Baby assessments

These appointments are usually booked for two hours. This is because the testing we complete may sometimes require the baby to be asleep, and this time may be needed to obtain this. Please bring with you a feed for your baby in case they are hungry, and any soothing accessories which you find encourages your baby to fall asleep. We will send you the following leaflet with your appointment letter which provides further information on the testing we will complete:

Your baby's visit to the audiology department

Your baby has been referred to audiology for further hearing tests after his or her newborn hearing screening.

You will be seen by one of our paediatric audiologists who will perform all required testing on your baby. If possible, please arrange childcare for young siblings, as the test environment needs to be quiet and appointments can last up to two hours.

The audiology department is located at 11 Shelley Road, Boscombe, Dorset, BH1 4JQ. Parking on-site is free for patients but it is very limited. There is on street parking (for limited periods) and a pay and display car park located at the Sovereign Centre, a five-minute walk away. The service is located on the first floor of the building but there is a lift available.

What happens at my baby’s appointment?

Our tests are similar to those used for the newborn screening. However they provide more detailed information about your baby’s hearing. The tests will not harm your baby in any way. They are usually performed while your baby is asleep and you will stay with him or her for the whole appointment.

At least one of the following will be performed:

Otoscopy and/or tympanometry. The clinician may examine your baby’s outer ears with a light, as well as perform a pressure test to check how well the eardrums are moving.

Otoacoustic emission (OAE) test. This test is preferably performed whilst your baby is asleep, but can sometimes be performed whilst baby is awake and still. This involves putting a soft earpiece in the outer part of your baby’s ear which plays clicking sounds. In response to this, the inner ear (or ‘cochlea’) usually produces an emission, or “echo”, which is detected by the testing equipment.

Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test. This is most successful if your baby is fast asleep, either in a car seat, pram or in your arms. We will gently rub an area of your baby’s skin on their forehead and behind each ear and stick a small measuring pad in each position. A small earphone is placed in the outer part of your baby’s ear which plays sounds into the ear (similar to the OAE test). A computer then measures electrical responses to these sounds from the hearing nerve.

We will be able to explain the results to you at the end of the appointment and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. We will also post you a copy of your baby’s clinical report, as well as send a copy to your GP, health visitor and any other professionals involved (with your permission).

Occasionally, we are unable to obtain a full set of results in one session (e.g. if your baby awakes before testing is complete). In these cases, a further appointment will be booked on another day to continue with testing.

Is there anything I can do to prepare my baby for their appointment?

Testing is most successful if your baby is fast asleep. Parents generally find that keeping their baby awake in the morning prior to the appointment helps in addition to a good feed just before they arrive. It is a good idea to also bring an extra feed with you. We are able to warm bottles if required and we can provide a quiet area for breast feeding. There are also baby changing facilities nearby. It can also be useful to bring your baby’s favourite comforters/ toys and a blanket. If possible, please do not apply any moisturiser or baby oil on your baby’s forehead or behind their ears the night before or on the day of testing, as this can make it difficult to attach the measuring pads. The information in this leaflet is available in additional languages and alternative formats.

You may find the National Deaf Children’s Society a useful source of information. Visit the NDCS website  

Contact the NDCS freephone helpline on 0808 800 8880 (Monday-Thursday: 9.30am–9.30pm. Friday: 9.30am–5pm).

Send an email to helpline@ndcs.org.uk

Internet live chat 

The following websites also have some useful information for parents. Enter 'newborn hearing' into the search box at NHS Choices or GOV.UK 


Hearing assessments for pre-school children

These appointments last from 45 to 60 minutes, and there will be two audiologists. The hearing test we use will depend on the developmental stage and age of your child, and may be one of the following:

Visual reinforcement audiometry

This is a form of behavioural hearing assessment for older babies and young children. We teach the child that every time they hear a sound (played either through a loud speaker or headphones), they will see a fun toy light up in a cabinet. This is a very effective assessment for this age group, and enables the audiologist to assess which sounds they are able to hear.

Play audiometry

When children are developmentally ready, we will teach them to play a game in play audiometry. This requires for them to be able to wait for a sound, and then make a response, for example putting a wooden man in a boat when they have heard a noise. Initially the sounds will be played through the loudspeaker; when the child is ready we will move to presenting sounds using headphones.

Older children will be asked to press a button when they hear a sound.


Hearing assessment for school-age children

 These appointments last from 45 to 60 minutes, and will normally be with one audiologist, unless we feel a second clinician will be helpful in testing. Depending on the developmental stage of the child we will either ask them to complete play audiometry as above, or to use a button when they hear a sound.

If we are unable to complete the hearing assessment in clinic using the above, we have other tests available to obtain results, and these will be discussed with you at the appointment.

Management options

If the hearing assessment is satisfactory we will discharge your child back to the care of your GP. If you have any further concerns in the future please discuss this with your GP, of health visitor if your child is pre-school.

For younger children, in the child’s record (red baby book) there are two checklists for hearing responses and speech and language. These will be helpful as a guide, but please remember children vary greatly and these are approximate ages; if you have any concerns please discuss this with your health visitor.

Sometimes at the appointment we may find that your child has a hearing loss. In this situation we are able to complete further tests to try and establish if this is a temporary loss, or one which is likely to be permanent. We will discuss the hearing test results in depth with you, and all possible management options, and arrange further assessment reviews. If necessary we may refer your child onto other services such as the ear, nose and throat service.  Some children with hearing loss will benefit from wearing hearing aids, and this will be discussed with you.

Hearing aids for children

The aim of fitting hearing aids for your child is to make speech and other important sounds accessible for them that they may otherwise miss out on. The hearing aids will make appropriate sounds louder and speech become clearer. The audiologist will discuss with you the most appropriate type of hearing aid for your child. Hearing aids are provided on loan by the NHS, and are free of charge to all children.

At the hearing aid fitting appointment we will discuss in detail with you (and if appropriate your child) how the hearing aid works, and how to look after the aid. We work in close collaboration with the Dorset Hearing Support Teacher Advisory Service who will also provide support on hearing aid use at home and in school, and with your permission we will refer you to this service.

Our service also has close links with the Dorset Deaf Children’s Society, who are able to offer families further support, and we will provide families with information on how to contact them.

Dorset Deaf Children's Society website

National Deaf Children's Society website

Additional arrangements

Food and drink are generally not allowed in the clinic rooms unless for a baby.  There are baby changing facilities and a disabled toilet at our clinic sites.

There is disabled parking in the car park next to the clinic at Shelley Road, and a lift is available for those in a wheelchair or with a pushchair. Guide dogs are allowed in clinic.

If you would like to discuss any additional needs either your child or yourselves have before attending clinic, please contact the main department number 0300 303 8640. If we are unable to deal with your enquiry at the time, we will arrange for a clinician to contact you.

Transition to the adult services

We are fortunate that East Dorset Audiology has both a paediatric and adult service, and this allows for a smooth transition from one to the other. Young adults leaving the paediatric service will be offered a specific transition appointment, at which we will discuss the hearing loss, the hearing aids and any questions they or the family may have.