Universal Newborn Hearing Screens
According to the American Academy 's of Audiology and Pediatrics, hearing loss is one of the most common major abnormalities present at birth. Research shows that without a newborn hearing-screening program, 50 percent of all newborns with hearing loss will not be detected until the second year of life. Studies indicate children who are identified with hearing loss and receive intervention by six months of age have a better chance at normal speech and language development, improving academic and employment levels.
At Altru, we use a non-invasive procedure called Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) to detect hearing loss in infants.
Newborn Hearing Screening: Questions & Answers
Q: How is the testing done?
A: The Newborn Hearing Screening is conducted in the hospital shortly after birth. The testing is very safe, easy on the baby, and takes only a few minutes. A small probe is inserted into the newborn's ear, which sends sounds to the inner ear. A tiny microphone within the probe then measures a response coming back from the inner ear. That response indicates whether the inner ear is functioning appropriately.
- If the screen result is "pass" no further hearing tests are required.
- If the screen result is "refer" the baby will be referred to an audiologist for a follow-up screen approximately two weeks later.
Q: What does it mean if your baby does not pass?
A: If your baby does not pass, it means that your baby needs further testing. It does not necessarily mean your baby has a hearing loss. The test may refer because of fluid in the baby's ear, or because the baby was too active during the test.
Follow-up testing is very important. If your baby has a hearing loss, you will want to find out early.
- If the re-screen result is "pass" no further hearing tests are required.
- If the re-screen result is "refer" a further diagnostic evaluation will be necessary.
Speech, Language & Hearing Skills in Babies
Here is a list of skills a child with normal hearing should be able to do.
Around Two Months
- Startles to loud sound
- Quiets to familiar voices
- Makes vowel sounds like "ooh" & "ahh"
Around Four Months
- Looks for sounds with eyes
- Uses a variety of voice sounds, squeals and chuckles
Around Six Months
- Turns head toward sound
- Begins to imitate speech sounds
Around Nine Months
- Imitates speech sounds of others
- Understands "no-no" or "bye-bye"
- Turns head toward soft sounds
Why should I screen my baby's hearing?
As many as one to three of every 1,000 babies are born in the United States each year with hearing loss. It is important to have your baby's hearing tested before leaving the hospital.
- Hearing sounds helps a baby learn to talk and communicate. A baby's brain continues to grow after birth. If a baby cannot hear, parts of the brain needed for good language skills may not develop.
- When a baby with a hearing loss is identified before three months of age and begins receiving special services before six months of age it has been shown that normal language, social and educational development can be achieved.
The purpose of an audiologic evaluation is to determine hearing acuity. Hearing loss can be categorized by type, degree and configuration of hearing loss.
The type of hearing loss suggests the point in the auditory system where the loss is occurring.
- Conductive: Temporary or permanent loss typically due to abnormal conditions of the outer and/or middle ear, such as earwax, infection or abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. May be medically or surgically treatable.
- Sensorineural: Typically a permanent hearing loss affecting the nerve cells in the cochlea and/or auditory nerve, which may be due to disease, the aging process, trauma or inherited conditions. Typically not medically or surgically treatable.
- Mixed: Combination of both conductive and sensorineural.
The degree categorizes the severity of the hearing loss.
- Normal. Hearing is within normal limits, suggesting no hearing loss.
- Mild. Minimal hearing loss; individual will miss some consonants and vowels.
- Moderate. Individual may understand face-to-face conversation in a quiet situation; will miss 50-75 percent of spoken language.
- Moderately severe. Individual will miss most of all spoken message, even talking face-to-face.
- Severe. Individual may not hear voice, unless speech is very loud.
- Profound. Individual may not be able to detect the presence of speech or even loud environmental sounds.
- bilateral versus unilateral hearing loss
- symmetrical versus asymmetrical hearing loss
- high frequency versus low frequency hearing loss
- flat versus sloping hearing loss
- progressive versus sudden hearing loss
- stable versus fluctuating hearing loss.
Depending on results, the audiologist may recommend a referral to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to determine if treatment is needed.