Nearly three out of every one thousand babies is born with hearing loss. The first two years of a child’s life are hugely important in physical development as well as in forming emotional, learning and communication skills. Hearing loss can cause children to experience major developmental setbacks in these areas.
Because newborn hearing loss is difficult to detect, many cases go undiagnosed until the child reaches talking age. Often, the only way to identify and treat a hearing loss is with an audiologist for an infant hearing screening.
There are two common hearing tests used for newborns.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) measures the response of a baby’s hearing nerve using electrodes.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) 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.
A baby’s first hearing screening will likely be performed within a few hours or days of birth. Statistics show that between 2–10 percent of infant hearing tests indicate hearing loss, while only 0.003 percent of infants actually suffer from a permanent hearing impairment. These tests are administered to help parents identify a potential problem as early as possible, in an effort to prevent developmental disorders.
Hearing loss in infants is usually the result of a temporary, treatable condition.
Screening results don’t always reveal what is causing the irregular results. In some cases, hearing loss is an easily treatable problem like a fluid buildup, earwax blockage or an ear infection. In other cases, the cause may never be identified. Infants with irregular test results will be directed to an audiologist for a more in-depth examination.
It’s important to continue following up on irregular newborn hearing screening results.
Since newborn hearing screenings indicate a potential hearing loss, many parents are left wondering about their child’s hearing. It is critical to identify permanent hearing loss symptoms as early as possible. Regularly retesting your infant’s hearing is highly advisable. Talk to an audiologist to find out how frequently you should test your child’s hearing.
Call Southwest Idaho ENT at (208) 367-3320 for more information or to schedule an appointment.