While most babies hear normally, some two to three of every 1,000 babies are born with some degree of hearing loss.

Babies with hearing loss have the best chance for normal language development if the impairment is discovered and treated by the age of three months.

How is newborn hearing screening done?

Two screening tests are used to test hearing. The tests are both quick (5-10 minutes), painless and can be done while a baby is sleeping or lying still.

  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR)
    This test measures how the brain responds to sound. Three electrodes placed on a baby’s head measure the brain’s response to noise.
  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE)
    A tiny probe is placed in a baby’s ear canal.  It measures the sound waves (echo) produced in the inner ear when clicks or tones are played.

What if a baby does not pass the hearing screening?

If a child does not pass the hearing screening at birth, it does not mean that the baby has hearing loss.  In fact, most babies who do not pass the screening test have normal hearing. But to be sure, it is extremely important to have a more thorough hearing medical evaluation. Additional testing can confirm whether a child’s hearing is normal. Testing should be done as soon as possible, preferably before a baby is three months old.

If hearing loss is found, what can be done?

Every baby with hearing loss should be seen by a hearing specialist experienced in testing babies and a pediatric ear/nose/throat (ENT) doctor. Special hearing tests can be performed that will determine the degree of hearing loss and what can be done to help. 

More Information

For more information on newborn hearing screening, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Website at http://www.aap.org or search for a doctor in our online physician directory.