Babies start learning as soon as they are born, and hearing is a key sense they use to become aware of the world around them. That’s why it is important for newborns to have a health screening in the first few days after birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 1 to 3 of every 1,000 babies born have some degree of hearing loss. For at least 50 percent of them, there were no known risk factors present that would indicate the problem before birth.
At least 95 percent of newborns receive hearing screening tests prior to hospital discharge. That’s important because hearing loss is the most common congenital issue in the U.S.
Newborn hearing tests are painless, take less than 10 minutes, and are conducted while the baby sleeps. Two types of screenings are typically used:
- Evoked Otoacoustic Emissions – a small probe is placed inside the ear to measure the response of the hearing nerve when clicks or tones are played into the ear
- Automated Auditory Brainstem Response – electrodes placed on the baby’s head measure the hearing nerve’s response when clicks or tones are played into the baby’s ears through soft earphones
According to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the most common reasons a baby may fail the test are:
- Blocked ear canal
- Fluid or an infection in the middle ear
- Permanent or mild hearing loss
Parents need to monitor continually their children’s hearing. Even babies who pass a newborn hearing screening may be susceptible to hearing loss in the future. Typically children may experience hearing impairment if they have frequent ear infections, chronic illnesses or have a family history of hearing loss.
Learn more about newborn hearing screenings: