With 2 to 3 of every thousand children born with a detectable measure of hearing loss in the US, and more than 90% of deaf children born to hearing parents, early infant hearing testing is extremely important.
In Louisiana, “Hospital screening programs form the basis for all statewide early hearing detection efforts and 100% of all birthing hospitals in the state were legislatively mandated to perform universal newborn hearing screening as of April 1, 2002.”
And that’s not all. They have in place what’s called early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) 1-3-6 goals.
– Before 1 month of age: Complete initial newborn hearing screening
– Before 3 months of age: Complete diagnostic assessment
– Before 6 months of age: Enroll in early intervention
Why Test Babies’ Hearing So Early?
Early diagnosis and treatment make a huge difference to a child’s future linguistic development. The sooner they start getting hearing help, the less likely they are to fall behind their peers in all areas of their development – cognition, speaking, reading, and social emotional development.
Even a mild loss can impact learning without proper accommodations or intervention.
How An Infant Hearing Test Is Done
In the hospital after birth, an automated auditory brain response (ABR) or distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) testing measure will be conducted. These tell us how the inner ear or cochlea responds to sounds and lets us know if the brain’s hearing nerves and their pathways are working properly.
For the ABR test, an audiologist puts electrodes on the baby’s head, and these record your baby’s brainwave activity in response to sounds they hear from headphones fitted in their ear canals.
For a diagnostic exam, the baby must be tired and hungry, and the parent must bring a bottle to feed the infant during the exam so that they are resting quietly during the test. Your baby will also need to be free of any hair gel, lotion, or jewelry such as earrings.
The ABR readout will give a simple pass or fail result, as only one level of loudness is checked.
But it is important to note that even if your baby does pass this hearing test, it does not guarantee they will have no hearing loss later in childhood.
If A Baby Fails Their Newborn Hearing Screening Test
The first thing to know is that if your baby does not pass the first hearing test, it does not mean they have a hearing loss.
About 90% of babies who don’t pass the newborn hearing test pass their next one. This is because they might still have fluid, vernix, or wax in their ears after birth that affects the test results.
If your baby does not pass the initial screening, the hospital will schedule your baby for a diagnostic ABR or DPOAE examination with an audiologist at Acadian Hearing Services.
– If your baby passes this test, then we will monitor their speech and language progress.
– If your baby passes but is identified as having a possible late-onset hearing loss, then we will repeat the hearing exam between 9 months – 1 yr.
If Your Baby Is Diagnosed With A Hearing Loss
If a hearing loss is identified, our audiologists will guide you in everything you need to know about hearing treatment – from state parent and pupil teams to speech and language intervention to hearing aid options.
We have many tools we can use to advise and support you on your child’s hearing journey and to help you understand and find solutions for the challenges your child might face.
Your child’s hearing team will include your baby’s pediatrician, an audiologist, an otolaryngologist, and a speech/language pathologist.
We also provide you with all the evaluation documentation you need to address your child’s hearing challenges with caregivers and teachers.
Infant Hearing Screening Specialists
When it comes to evaluating a baby’s hearing, only an audiologist is qualified to do so because of their years of study and experience.
Pediatricians generally begin screening during well check appointments at four years old. School-based screenings begin in kindergarten and are repeated every other year until eighth grade.
But here at Acadian Hearing Services, we recommend doing a yearly hearing evaluation, especially if your child is genetically predisposed to having a hearing loss, or they have experienced infections and illnesses, exposure to secondhand smoke, or NICU treatments.
Also ask us about protecting your child’s hearing if they will be engaging in any noisy activities. We can guide you on the best ways to do so.
Concerned About Your Child’s Hearing?
Early intervention is best because your child’s development relies so much on hearing.
Make an appointment with Acadian Hearing Services for an infant hearing test. We can evaluate all children’s hearing accurately, and we’ll support and guide you both forward.
When it comes to discovering your baby has a hearing loss, there is so much help available now to prevent developmental delays. We’re here to help. Please feel free to reach out anytime with your questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them all.