What If Your Baby Fails The Newborn Hearing Test?

Health & Medical Blog

A hearing screening is a normal procedure done after birth to determine if your baby can hear or not. Most babies will pass this test, but some do fail. The good news is that you don't have to automatically assume that a failed test means that your baby has hearing loss. There are many reasons why a baby may fail the screening and the best thing that you can do as a parent is to stay calm and take your baby in for a re-check screening or diagnostic test.

What's the Difference Between a Screening and a Diagnostic?

The screening is what is done in the hospital after birth and it is designed simply to tell if your baby's ears respond to sound. It is a short test and only has two results: pass or fail.

A diagnostic test is more involved and takes much longer. It is usually only needed if the initial screening comes back with a failed result. In a diagnostic hearing test, an audiologist tests your baby's hearing with varying tones and pitches of sound. This is helpful in determining the level of hearing loss, if any, in more detail.

What Are the Different Types of Hearing Tests?

Your doctor will determine the best test that you baby needs to assess his or her hearing ability. You may be recommended for any number or even all of these tests, but the number of tests suggested shouldn't worry you.

  • Acoustic Reflexes: A probe inside the ear canal records the middle ear's muscle reflex.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response: Electrodes measure the baby's brainstem's response to sound of varying pitches and loundness.
  • Behavioral Observation Audiometry: The baby wears headphones and the audiologist looks for any reaction the baby makes from the sound.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions: A probe measures the baby's inner ear movements while sound is played.
  • Otoscopy: A lighted otoscope is used to visually examine the ear and ear canal.
  • Tympanometry: A probe measures any movement of the ear drum to determine if there is a middle ear problem.

Reasons Your Baby May Fail a Hearing Test

  • Hearing loss is present
  • Fluid or birth matter inside the ear
  • Crying or screaming during the exam

Remember that the hearing screening your baby receives in the hospital after birth is not conclusive should it come back with a failed result. Follow your doctor's recommendations for further testing and follow ups. If your baby should have hearing loss, your doctor will help you determine what options are available to help your baby hear. For answers to your other questions about newborn hearing tests and hearing loss, talk with someone such as Hearing and Balance Centers.


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