What To Expect At Your Newborn's Hearing Screening

Health & Medical Blog

As a new parent, you may be unaware that a nurse will come in and perform a hearing screening once your baby is born. This screening is meant to identify possible hearing loss in infants and treat it early. If treatment happens before 6 months of age, your child should develop regular cognitive and speech skills by kindergarten. If it goes untreated, however, your child could suffer from speech and language impediments, as well as cognitive skills. Now that you know why screening is done, here's what you can expect during the screening.

What the Equipment Setup is Like

At some point in your hospital stay, an audiologist may come and take your baby into another room for a hearing screening. However, many hospitals have portable audiology equipment now, so your baby can be screened without being removed from your hospital room. Portable equipment looks like a small computer desk. The procedure goes like this:

  • Equipment is wheeled in by an audiologist
  • You can request to hold your baby or allow the audiologist to
  • Small pads or an earpiece are placed on your child's head, near the ears
  • A machine is turned on that measures your newborn's responses to different sounds (responses aren't typically observable, they are picked up by the machine)
  • The procedure is painless, and sounds are minimal so your infant's ears aren't damaged

If Your Baby Passes the Hearing Screening

Your child doesn't have to get perfect scores on screenings to pass a hearing test (the likelihood of fluid in your newborn's ears is taken into consideration). In order to pass, significant hearing ability must be measured by the computer. No additional action is needed if your child passes the hearing screening.

If Your Child Doesn't Pass the Hearing Screening

If your baby doesn't pass the screening, however, you will have to arrange for a follow-up screening. The follow-up is typically scheduled a week out or with your infant's first visit to the pediatrician. Remember, your infant is still only a day or two old when the screening takes place, and it is likely there is still fluid from birth in the ears. If this is the case, the second test will only last a few minutes and results should be positive.

If your child fails the screening a second time, however, additional measures must be taken. The audiologist will discuss possible causes for hearing loss, as well as the next steps you should take in repairing it. It may be tempting to wait and see if your infant's hearing will come on its own, but your child is already starting to develop speech and cognitive skills. Waiting could delay your child's development. The next steps you should take are to:

  • Schedule a hearing diagnostic test – this test is more extensive and helps determine the severity of hearing loss
  • Visit an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to see if an inner-ear infection is causing hearing loss and can easily be restored
  • Make sure your audiologist and pediatrician are working together to help your infant
  • Order a hearing device or schedule a surgery, if necessary
  • Get involved in support groups to better understand the condition and how to help your child develop

Hearing screenings are performed in the first few days of an infant's life for a reason. When hearing loss is detected early, there is a higher chance you can repair it before it becomes permanent. Early intervention also keeps your child from falling behind developmentally. While failing a hearing test the first time doesn't necessarily mean your child's hearing is impaired, it is good to know what possible steps you will need to take if results are unchanged the second time.

For more information, contact Hearing Specialists of DuPage or a similar organization.


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