New technology

Written by Dr. Marc A. Connery. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on February 16, 2012 with No Comments

Every year, a new “have-to-have” gadget or gizmo comes on the market and people rush out to get it.  Pediatricians are no exception.  The difference is, at least in part, that much of what they get for their offices has a direct impact on their patient care.

We have become accustomed to electronic thermometers, blood pressure machines and even simple laboratory tests done in the office. Technology in medicine has even improved to the point that hearing and vision tests can be done on children who cannot yet read or understand instructions.

This represents a major step forward in screening for conditions that will affect a child’s ability to participate in school and activities. 

We are all familiar with the old-fashioned headsets worn during hearing exams: “beep” in the right ear, raise your right hand; “beep” in the left ear, raise the left hand.  Unfortunately for a young child still learning left and right, this is of no help. And for the infant and toddler, there’s no way to instruct them on how to respond.

For years, we have had newborns tested for hearing loss in the nursery. This technology has become less expensive and compact that this same service now can be provided in the pediatric office.

Called an OAE (for otoacoustic emission) screen, it is essentially a speaker and microphone in the same earphone. This works by actually hearing how the eardrum tenses up when sound hits the membrane. When sound comes in, the nerve in the ear sends a reflex impulse back to tighten up, like a percussionist tuning a big drum.  The microphone then records it.

Vision testing for young children has been nearly as difficult. While there have been a few tricks to quickly determine if a child is able to see, there could be obstacles. For example, many preschoolers still didn’t know the letters used in standard vision charts. Later vision charts had simple images or symbols. This may have worked for older children but not for infants.

Now there is automatic refraction testing which uses some of the same technology as your digital camera.

Refraction simply means how light passes through the lens. Any time you go to the eye doctor’s office and look at letters through that big black mask, you are testing the refraction of the lens of your eye.

With the auto-refractor, a photo of the rear of the eye is taken. Depending on how much focus is needed to get a clear image, the more near-sighted, far-sighted, or astigmatic you may be.

The important thing to remember is that these are simply screening tests. They are designed to be sensitive enough to not miss a hearing or vision problem. If a child fails a test, more specific testing can be done.  That way, correctable problems can be addressed early.




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About Dr. Marc A. Connery

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Dr Connery is an Illiana native who has lived the majority of his life in the region. As a board certified pediatrician he sees children from birth to 21 years for preventive health and acute care services. After 10 years of local service he has set up his own practice, Brickyard Pediatrics in Hobart, IN accepting new patientfor most insurances including medicaid.  He can be reached through his website and by phone at 219-940-9605.

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