Newborn hearing loss is tough to detect, which is why many cases go undiagnosed until the child reaches talking age. The only way to often identify and treat a hearing loss problem when it truly counts is to take your baby to an audiologist for an infant hearing screening.
Why Is Early Detection So Important?
Nearly three of every 1,000 babies are born with some form of hearing loss. However, in most cases, hearing issues aren’t discovered in children until they are at least 2 years old. The first two years of a child’s life are critical in physical development and forming emotional, learning and communication skills. Because of this, babies with moderate to severe hearing loss often experience major developmental setbacks.
Despite many years of developing and refining these hearing tests for babies just a few months old, studying infant hearing loss still presents many challenges. If you’re a new parent preparing for a newborn hearing screening, there are several important factors and facts you need to know before your appointment.
There Are Two Common Hearing Tests Used for Newborns
The first is called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test, which measures a baby’s hearing nerve response using electrodes. The second is the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test, which uses a microphone and earphone to calculate an infant’s hearing abilities by measuring the reflection of a sound’s echo as it passes through the ear canal.
False Positives for Hearing Loss Are Common in Newborn Screenings
Your care providers will likely perform a baby’s first hearing screening within a few hours or days of birth. Statistics show that approximately 2% of infant hearing tests performed in the U.S. indicate hearing loss. Rather than a diagnosis, these tests help parents identify a potential problem as early as possible, promoting the prevention of developmental disorders.
Hearing Loss in Infants Is Usually the Result of a Temporary, Treatable Condition
The tests used in newborn hearing screenings are accurate; however, they can’t reveal what causes the inconsistent results. In most cases, a hearing loss—positive result from the tests indicates an easily treatable problem like a fluid buildup, earwax blockage or ear infection. In other cases, doctors may never identify the cause. Infants with irregular test results will be directed to an audiologist or hearing specialist for a more in-depth examination.
It’s Important to Continue Following Up on Irregular Newborn Hearing Screening Results
Since hearing screenings may indicate a potential hearing loss, many parents are left wondering about their child’s hearing. However, it’s critical to identify permanent hearing loss symptoms as early as possible in infants, so regularly retesting your infant’s hearing is highly advisable. Talk to an audiologist about your situation to determine how frequently you should test your child’s hearing to detect possible hearing loss problems.