Of every 1,000 babies born in the United States every year, 2-3 will have detectable hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. Treating these congenital hearing problems early is vitally important for helping your child learn, develop, and communicate as they grow.
Like most other states, Utah requires newborn hearing screening, with most screenings happening while your baby is still in the hospital — typically within two days of birth. If the baby fails that screening, they must be tested within 14 days so they can begin early treatment if needed.
As a new parent, it’s natural to be worried about how the screenings are conducted and the effect they might have on your baby. At ENT Specialists, our team performs newborn hearing screenings using state-of-the-art technology to screen for even subtle signs of hearing loss. Here’s what our providers want you to know about this very important newborn health screening.
Babies begin hearing while they’re still in the womb. As soon as they’re born, the language-learning process begins.
Listening to their parents and others speak in the first months of life prepares newborns for speech, and hearing the noises they make helps them refine those noises into words and sentences.
Newborn hearing loss interferes with those activities and impedes speech development, often leading to delays in learning and other areas of development. On the other hand, research shows that addressing hearing loss during those first weeks and months of life has tremendous benefits that last for life.
Since babies can’t speak when they’re born, identifying hearing loss can be problematic. Newborn hearing tests use special technology to assess hearing within the first few days, weeks, and months of life.
Two primary hearing tests are used for newborns: auditory brainstem response (ABR) and otoacoustic emissions (OAE). Both tests are safe for babies, and neither test causes pain or discomfort.
ABR testing measures your newborn’s responses to soft clicking noises played through baby-sized headphones. A small sensor placed on your baby’s forehead picks up the brain’s responses to these sounds. Those responses are compared with “normal” baseline responses to assess how well your baby is hearing.
OAE testing uses a tiny, soft earphone to emit soft sounds into your baby’s ears. When a sound is correctly received by the tiny structures in your baby’s inner ears, a sound is emitted. These sounds are captured and measured by a special microphone, then assessed for signs of hearing loss.
If your baby doesn’t pass their initial hospital screening, it doesn’t automatically mean your child has a hearing loss. It does mean they need to be retested within 14 days. If they don’t pass the second screening, our team can perform additional evaluations and assessments to determine if a hearing loss is present so your child can receive appropriate care.
By identifying hearing problems early in life, you help your child get the care and services they need to support normal, healthy development as they grow. To learn more about newborn hearing tests at our locations in Salt Lake City, Murray, Draper, Tooele, and West Jordan, Utah, call ENT Specialists or book an appointment online today.