Newborn Hearing Screening – Parent’s Guide

Why is my baby’s hearing being screened?
Hearing loss affects 3 in 1,000 newborns. Good hearing is essential for speech and language development, particularly in a child’s first few years. Hearing loss can go undetected until a child shows symptoms of delayed speech. Now, testing is completed at birth to identify hearing loss so appropriate treatment can be completed to avoid these delays. Testing is non-invasive and can identify even mild hearing loss. This can be a temporary hearing loss due to fluid in the ear canal or it can be permanent.

Hearing screening is a state mandate and is part of the metabolic screening required. Chances are that your baby will pass the test. However, if screening does not result in a pass, a repeat test will be scheduled within 10 days. If the second test does not result in a pass, a diagnostic evaluation will be recommended to identify the area and cause of the hearing loss. If a child is found to have hearing loss, there is a network of professionals who can follow-up with appropriate treatment and recommendations to help overcome development challenges.

Although the first hearing test will show hearing at the time of testing, it is important to monitor your child’s speech and language abilities as your child grows. Milestones for speech and language development will be provided on the back of the results form as a guideline. If you have any concerns, ask your pediatrician or family physician.

When is there a higher risk for hearing loss?
Studies have shown that certain circumstances are often accompanied by a higher occurrence of hearing loss. For instance, if the baby …

  • stayed in the NICU for more than five days.
  • had assisted ventilation, ototoxic medication or hyperbilirubinemia that required blood exchange.
  • had an infection before or after birth such as CMV, herpes, rubella or meningitis.
  • has a family history of hearing loss from birth or in childhood.
  • has a condition (neurological disorder) that is associated with hearing loss.
  • has an unusually shaped head, face or ears.

How is hearing screening done?
The hearing screen is normally performed around 24 hours after the birth of your baby. It only takes a few minutes and is usually performed while baby is asleep. The screening is performed with safe, specialized equipment and will cause no discomfort to your baby. A trained technician will put an earpiece over each ear and play soft sounds for your baby. The sensors measure your baby’s response to the sound. Results will be received immediately.

What does a “Pass” result mean?
A “Pass” means the baby’s hearing is within a defined normal range at the specific time of the screening. If your baby has additional risk factors, hearing should be retested at a later date (see back of results form)

What does a “Did Not Pass” result mean?
A “Did Not Pass” result means that your baby needs additional hearing screening. This result does not always indicate a hearing loss; however, rescreening needs to be done. We will help schedule a follow-up appointment.

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