Hearing screenings are now recommended for every infant shortly after birth. Most infants undergo an initial hearing screening at the hospital before they go home for the first time.

This is because up to 3 in every 1,000 babies are born with some degree of hearing loss.

Without the newborn hearing screening it is difficult to know whether your baby has a hearing loss or not. About half of all babies with a hearing loss have no prior risk factors.

What Tests are Used for Newborn Hearing Screenings?

There are two main tests that are used during newborn hearing screenings. They are called Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE).

ABR testing measures how the hearing nerve responds to sounds. Clicks or tones are played through earphones into your babies ears. Electrodes placed on your baby’s head give feedback as to the brain’s response to this stimuli.

OAE testing measures sound waves that are produced in your baby’s inner ear. A tiny probe is placed just inside the ear canal that measures the response (echo) when sounds are played into your baby’s ear.

Both of these tests are quick and painless. They usually need to be performed while your baby is sleeping or lying very still. Typically, OAE testing will be done first. If the results are inconclusive or detect a hearing loss, ABR testing may be done next.

How to Prepare for a Newborn Hearing Screening

The easiest way to prepare your baby for a hearing exam is to bring your baby when they are hungry and tired. Young babies will most likely sleep through the entire test if you show up for the appointment when they are ready for a feeding and a nap.

Try to keep your baby awake before a hearing screening test and wait to feed your baby. Bring a bottle or be prepared to nurse when your baby is prepped for the test.

You can then feed your baby and let them fall asleep naturally. The test can be done while your baby sleeps in your arms or in a crib, whatever works best for you and your baby.

What If My Baby Has Hearing Loss?

Most babies will pass their initial hearing screening in the hospital. If your baby does not pass, it does not mean they have a hearing loss. It just means that your baby could possibly have a hearing loss and will need further tests.

If your baby has a hearing loss, early intervention should start as soon as possible. Early intervention is a set of programs and services that are available to babies and families to help them cope with and treat hearing problems, as well as help them learn important communication skills.

Because early intervention is so important to future success in a child’s life, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all babies undergo a newborn hearing screening as soon as possible after birth.

A child with hearing loss can go on to live a happy life, especially with early intervention, treatment, therapies, and a supportive family that is willing to learn new ways of communicating.

Finding out your child has a hearing loss does not have to be a sad thing. Look at it from a positive perspective, knowing that you caught the problem early and can work toward giving your child the best life possible.