There are plenty of things to worry about during pregnancy and the delivery of your child, from proper nutrition to vaccinations. However, one thing that slips many new parents’ minds is testing their baby’s ability to hear.
Fortunately, 97 percent of American newborns are screened for hearing loss so any auditory issues can be detected early in life. Typically, these screenings are conducted in a hospital nursery before discharge, so if you had an at-home birth, you will want to get your baby’s hearing screened as soon as possible, and definitely within one month of birth.
The newborn hearing screening consists of either one or two tests. They are so simple and painless that they can be conducted within minutes as your newborn baby sleeps. Which test your hospital chooses is largely dependent on their preferences and resources, but both are accurate screening measures.
- Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test – During this test, a small earbud containing a microphone is placed in each of the baby’s ears. The earbud plays a clicking noise. The microphone then picks up the echo from the clicking noise, and information about the volume and strength of the echo is recorded on the computer. A weak or absent echo may indicate hearing loss.
- Auditory brain stem response (ABR) test – Before the test, a health professional will affix electrodes to your baby’s forehead and behind both their ears. These measure the nervous system’s response to sound. Earbuds are placed in the ears and clicks are delivered. The information from the electrodes is then sent to the computer to show whether your child has passed or failed.
Most newborns will pass the screening test without any trouble. Of the newborns who do not pass, some “fail” grades may be due to a baby’s movement or other external factors that interfere with the test. To truly know whether your child has congenital hearing loss or not, you will want to schedule a second screening and/or diagnostic test as soon as possible, and no later than three months of age.
Follow-Up Diagnostic Testing
The next step is to take your baby to a certified audiologist. They may conduct one more screening or go right into the tests, which include:
- Diagnostic ABR – For children less than six months old. It’s very similar to the ABR test but more detailed, since the audiologist can alter the sound levels.
- Visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) – For children between six months and two and a half years old. This test circumvents a young child’s limited speech capabilities by relying on visual cues like light-up toys or screens. The audiologist will play a tone through either earphones or surround sound speakers. If your child turns their head toward the source of the sound, the toy or screen will light up as a reward. This is repeated until the audiologist identifies your child’s hearing threshold.
If your child is diagnosed with hearing loss, you will want to take additional steps before six months of age to ensure they stay on par with their peers in terms of learning, language acquisition and social development. By enlisting the help of a team including an audiologist, otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor), genetic specialist and ophthalmologist (eye doctor), you can identify the source of the hearing loss, whether it’s permanent and progressive or not, whether your child may have another condition and how your child will best learn and communicate moving forward. This could include speaking, signing in ASL or a combination of both. Your child may be recommended medication (in the case of infection), a hearing aid, a cochlear implant or surgery.
Signs of Hearing Loss to Watch For
Even if your baby passes the hearing loss screening or test with flying colors, there is always a small chance that the assessment gave incorrect results. It is also possible for a baby to develop hearing loss after birth. If you suspect hearing loss at any point in your child’s life, it is better to be safe than sorry and schedule a diagnostic test with a health professional.
Some signs your child may be experiencing hearing loss include:
- Lack of startling when loud noises occur
- Limited reaction to parents’ voices by three months old
- Does not make vowel sounds by two months old, mimic noises by six months old, say single words around 12 to 15 months old or string together two-word phrases by two years old
- No desire to dance to music or play with noise-making toys
Schedule Your Baby’s Hearing Test With Davis Family Hearing
Dealing with hearing loss can be scary, especially if you don’t have any experience with it. However, you can rest assured that your child can live a very fulfilling life regardless of hearing ability. The key is getting them any help they may need as soon as possible so they can reach language and learning milestones.
At Davis Family Hearing, we offer a full range of diagnostic hearing assessments for all age levels, including pediatric assessments. We also provide treatment services like hearing aids and cochlear implants. All our audiologists are certified by the Board of Audiology and strive to find the best solution for you and your family.
If you are interested in diagnostic testing for your child, fill out our online form or call (352) 666-8910 today.