Baby hearing test: what to expect

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As soon as your baby is born, he will undergo a series of tests to check his development and general initial health. But do not worry. For the most part, these tests are non-invasive and often include standard diagnostics such as recording your baby’s weight, checking for jaundice, and ensuring their small airways are clear.

Another important diagnosis is a hearing test. Usually done shortly before your baby is released, hearing tests are essential to ensure that your baby’s development is on track.

If you are giving birth in a hospital or birthing center, you can expect your baby to have a hearing test before you go out. Depending on the facility, your baby may have one of two common types of newborn hearing tests: automated brainstem hearing response or otoacoustic emissions.

Usually, newborn hearing screening is a standard diagnosis that is performed shortly after birth at medical facilities across the United States. Indeed, in 2019, 97.7 percent of babies born in the United States have their hearing screened before reaching 1 month of age.

These tests are safe for your baby and will not hurt him. Often the test is given while your toddler is sleeping. And in some cases, your baby may receive both tests. Each test takes no more than 5-10 minutes.

Brainstem Automated Auditory Response (AABR)

With the AABR test, technicians measure how your baby’s hearing nerve, auditory nerve, and brainstem respond to sound.

Your baby will have small headphones placed on his ears and sticker-shaped electrodes placed on his head. Because babies cannot tell test administrators what they can or cannot hear, the electrodes measure the auditory nerve and brainstem response to soft sounds like clicks or tones.

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE)

The OAE test focuses specifically on the functionality of the ear. In particular, the test measures the sound waves produced in your baby’s inner ear.

A small probe is placed just inside your baby’s ear canal. Similar to the AABR test, the sounds will include clicks and tones.

Newborn hearing screenings are powerful tools for identifying potential hearing loss that could impact a child’s language development as they grow older. But they are also snapshots in time.

In other words, passing a newborn hearing test doesn’t mean your child will never have hearing loss. And conversely, failing an initial hearing test does not mean your child has permanent hearing loss.

To “pass” a test, your newborn baby must clear the screening in both ears. If your baby only passes in one ear, this test is considered “failed” and will need to be retested. If your baby fails the first test but passes the retest and has no risk factors for hearing loss, it counts as a pass and he will not need further screening.

Being able to hear is important – no parent wants to learn that their bundle of joy didn’t pass a checkup. But just like with other diagnostic tools, it is possible to get a false negative with hearing tests of newborns.

According to the Boys Town National Research Hospital, about 2 to 10 percent of all newborns in the United States will not pass their first hearing screening. But of those who fail, less than 1% are diagnosed with lasting hearing loss. So, what gives?

Common causes of a false negative test result tend to be related to your baby being a newborn. After spending 9 months in a fluid-filled environment, your baby may still have fluid in their middle ear. Also, the thick layer of vernix that covers your baby’s skin at birth can sometimes get into the ear canal.

And in some cases, your baby may have been awake during the hearing test. It is possible that they are moving too much, crying, screaming, or fidgeting, which means the test results could be inaccurate.

Often times, if your baby fails the first test, the hospital may do the test again before the two of you go out to check if the first test results were correct.

While it is the norm to test a baby’s hearing before it is released from a hospital or birthing center, that doesn’t mean it always happens.

You should have your baby checked for hearing before they are 1 month old. Usually, your baby’s healthcare professional can schedule the test. If your baby does not pass this test, your pediatrician may recommend that you work with a pediatric audiologist.

Newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are not always screened during the first days of life. Often times, this test can be delayed until they are medically stable or ready to be released.

Additionally, parents who opt for home birth will need to work with their doctor to schedule a hearing screening before their baby is 1 month old.

The push for early hearing screening is essential as babies learn by being immersed in the world around them. And being able to hear is an essential part of developing speaking skills.

Identifying potential hearing loss early allows you to work with your baby’s healthcare team to find solutions. This makes it more likely that your baby will not be developmentally delayed.

Getting a success screen on a follow-up exam can help you relax. Remember, based on your family history or any other underlying condition that could impact your baby’s hearing, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to focus on hearing loss anymore. potential.

Although AABR and OAE tests are considered the standard and most effective options for hearing screenings of newborns, they are not 100% perfect. Some tones may be missed by the test. This would mean that your baby could potentially have partial hearing loss.

And if you have a family history of hearing loss, your baby’s doctor or audiologist will usually recommend continuous hearing monitoring. This is proactive – designed to prevent any hearing loss from delaying your baby’s development.

Even if you have no family history or known hearing problems, your child should continue to have their hearing checked periodically.

If your baby has hearing loss, you will be referred to an audiologist and an ENT doctor to determine how to manage their condition. Depending on the severity of your baby’s hearing loss, the doctor may recommend a variety of solutions. They can also provide you with recommendations for family support groups to help your family cope.

Intervention for hearing loss in babies may include recommending a hearing aid such as a pediatric hearing aid or cochlear implants. But as your child gets older, there are other techniques to help them improve their language and communication skills.

In the United States, your child can learn American Sign Language (ASL). They may also learn skills such as lip reading or clue speech to help guide their communication. Alternatively, assistive listening devices such as personal FM amplifiers and closed captions can also facilitate the understanding of the language in everyday life.

With all of the tests that your newborn will undergo in their first few days of life, the newborn hearing test is a critical test that should not be avoided. If your hospital or birthing center does not perform the test before your baby is released (or if you opt for a home birth), your healthcare professional can schedule the screening.

If your baby has hearing loss, know that there are treatments. You can work with a specialist to create an action plan that best supports your baby’s language development.

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