Newborn Hearing Screen

hearingIn the short time you and your baby are in the hospital after delivery many screening tests are done. I’d like to review each of these individually over the next few weeks….

One of these tests is the newborn hearing screen. This is a test done before you are discharged from the hospital to identify any hearing loss early on.  Hearing loss is the most common congenital condition in the US. For many babies the sounds we take for granted, can go unheard. The American Academy of Pediatrics says as many as 1-3 out of every 1000 newborns will have some degree of hearing impairment, and of those babies 95 percent are born to hearing parents.

Catching any hearing issues sooner, rather than later, can make a huge impact in your child’s development. Studies show that important language skills are learned before the age of 3 and hearing and language skills are closely tied together, so this is an important time to identify any hearing loss issues.

Almost all hospitals have a newborn hearing screen. OAE, (otoacoustic emissions) and ABR, (Auditory Brainstem Response), is a simple, painless procedure that can be done as the baby sleeps. A small probe is placed in the baby’s ear and a sticky electrode on the baby’s scalp. Sound waves enter the baby’s ear and brain wave responses are measured.

If this screening uncovers a potential problem, this doesn’t mean permanent hearing loss, only that a secondary screening will be done to uncover any possible hearing loss. Some babies don’t pass the hearing screen but have normal hearing. Some interference with results could be fluid in the ears, a baby who is moving his/her head a lot during the test, a poorly fitting probe, or a noisy testing area.

If an audiologist confirms a hearing loss, you would be referred to an early intervention program. The goal of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that every infant be screened as a newborn, diagnosed by 3 months old and receive early intervention services by 6 months old.  Dr. Vohr, a member of the AAP task force says, “We’re living through a period of enhanced optimism about children with hearing loss. We’ve seen the incredible differences made by early identification and early amplification, and I think the opportunities for children with hearing loss, no matter which mode of communication is used, will continue to improve”

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