Hearing Loss in Babies

Did you know babies wear hearing aids at 6 weeks of age?

You may ask, “How is it possible to know that a 6 week old baby has hearing loss?” Most babies will undergo a newborn hearing screening prior to discharge from the hospital. The newborn hearing screening can detect possible hearing loss in the first days of a baby’s life.  The screening is quick, only about 5-10 minutes, and is painless. It is often done while the baby is sleeping or lying still. Any type of movement, sucking, crying, or even debris/fluid in the ear can affect the results of the screening. There are two tests that may be used:

Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)

A click sound or tone is played in the baby’s ear via an earphone. Electrodes are placed on the baby’s head to measure how the sound is moving through the ear to the brain in order to determine how the hearing nerve is responding to the sound.        

Otoacoustic Emmissions (OAE)

A tiny earphone and microphone is placed into the ear canal and sounds are played. If the baby hears normally, an echo is reflected back into the ear canal and measured by the microphone. If the baby has hearing loss, an echo cannot be measured.

If your baby fails the newborn hearing screening, it is important to follow-up for a diagnostic auditory brainstem response (ABR) evaluation. Determining the severity of hearing loss and beginning early intervention is very important. Even a mild hearing loss can negatively impact a child’s language development. More information about the diagnostic ABR and early intervention will be continued in my next blog.