Friday, April 12, 2013

Why do newborns need their hearing screened?

The early detection and intervention of hearing problems in a child is critical to that child's future success. Studies have shown that children with hearing loss who receive appropriate early intervention services by age 6 months usually develop good language and learning skills.

Newborn on yellow blanket being attended to by a nurse
Image source: Wikipedia
Some parents think they would easily be able to tell if their baby cannot hear. However, this is not always true. Babies may respond to noise by startling or turning their heads toward the sound. This does not mean they have normal hearing. Most babies with hearing loss can hear some sounds but still not hear enough to develop full speaking ability.

Your baby will have the best chance for normal language development if a hearing loss is discovered and treatment begins by the age of 6 months.

So how exactly do you test a baby's hearing?

The 2 primary methods are:

  • Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)—This test measures how the hearing nerve responds to sound. Clicks or tones are played through soft earphones into the baby's ears. Three electrodes placed on the baby's head measure the hearing nerve's response.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)—This test measures sound waves produced in the inner ear. A tiny probe is placed just inside the baby's ear canal. It measures the response (echo) when clicks or tones are played into the baby's ears.
Both of these tests only take a few minutes and can often be performed while your baby is sleeping or lying still. Depending upon where your child is delivered, one or both of these tests may be performed.

If you have any concerns about your child's hearing or delays in speech/language development, be certain to follow-up with your pediatrician and get a referral to a licensed audiologist.

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