The newborns are a delight to watch and as soon as they are born the whole family runs behind the little bundle of joy to touch them, feel them and have a thorough look at the newborn’s beauty. However, there are a number of checks and tests to be done on a newborn before you can start living with the baby day in and day out. One of the much required tests that is compulsorily undergone by the doctors as soon as the baby is born is the newborn hearing screening test. This allows the doctors to check the hearing ability of the child and in compilation with other tests state the fact that the child is healthy and free from any disease and disabilities.
Babies are little souls who have not figured out their own body senses and will grow and develop with one after they start experience themselves. Doctors through other and hearing screening tests establish the correct working of the child’s five senses to have a satisfied understanding of the baby’s growth and development. If you still are not convinced about taking the test for your baby, we have a little guide for you to have a thorough understand of the hearing screening test!
What is the purpose of newborn hearing screening?
New born hearing screening is done to test the hearing ability or to test the hearing disability of the newborn. This is mostly done within a week of the newborn’s birth in the hospital itself. Although babies are able to hear normally but almost 3 out of 1000 babies are born with some hearing disability. And it is difficult to tell the difference within the first year of the baby’s birth. Newborn hearing screening allows tracking any form of disability that may be found in the bay in the earlier days of its birth and take early intervention treatments at the right time. This helps in getting the treatment done at a very early age.
Why do newborns need hearing screening?
Newborn babies are like a blank book of pages and they are only filled with knowledge with each day as they start to experience new happenings around. Newborns learn and adopt things through their eyes and hearing abilities. Like the voice of the mother, the teasing of a toy and the immediate reaction that the baby gives are a reciprocation of the baby’s hearing it. If baby is not able to hear properly, he/she may not be able to learn or adopt things as perfectly as they should.
Newborn hearing screening helps in detecting any form of disability in a newborn. Sometimes it may happen that the baby responds to a sound but they are not able to really interpret the sound but just responding to it. It is very difficult to tell for the parents or anyone if the baby is able to hear or not. Reacting to sound and reacting to voices is a different thing and newborn hearing screening helps in making it clear if the baby is able to hear clearly or just responding to waves of sounds it receives.
When is the newborn hearing test done?
Newborn hearing screening is often done with the early birth days of the child. If your child is born in a hospital the doctors may take the test in the initial days before giving you a discharge. At other hospitals doctors arrange the hearing screening after a few weeks of the baby birth and do it on follow up checkups done with the baby after the birth. They arrange for a separate hearing screening session after two to three weeks of the baby birth.
There are baby hearing screening doctors who approach the patients themselves with their service after a few weeks of the baby birth. You will be contacted by them to arrange for a suitable time and venue of the test.
However if your doctor has not offered your baby a newborn hearing screening test you can contact your health advisor or doctor to arrange for a hearing screening. The test can be done as early as the first week to as late as a year.
How is the new born hearing screening done?
The newborn hearing screening test is done by doctors under expert supervision and is a simple process. There are generally two kinds of test done to check the hearing ability of your child.
- Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR): This test checks the nerve reactions of the baby to the sounds provided. Soft earphones are put on the baby’s ear and clicks or tone sounds are played. Three electrodes are placed on the baby’s head catching the nerve responses while the baby hears the sounds.
- Automated Optoacoustic Emissions (AOAE): This takes just a few minutes! A tiny probe is placed in the inner ear (cochlea) of the baby and click tones are played to measure the response and echo created in the baby’s inner ear, which is caught through screening equipment.
It is not necessary for a hearing screening to have a positive result all at once or in the earlier tests of the newborn. It may happen that the test is not carried out properly and the result is negative, the reason can be:
- Background noises
- Temporary blockage in the ear
- Newborn was uncomfortable
- The earphone was not correctly placed.
These tests are completely safe and don’t harm your baby in any way. And so you can completely rely on your doctor for the hearing screening tests.
What happens if the baby doesn’t pass the hearing screening?
If your child does not pass the hearing screening test still it is not proved that your child has a hearing loss. Sometimes the newborns are tested with hearing screening tests and have negative results but still have normal hearing. The fail in the result can come from many factors such as-
- The baby was scared
- Baby was uncomfortable
- Baby is too young to react etc.
While these reasons can be avoided and you can undertake the test once again with advance screening before your baby turns 3 months old. Generally, the doctors book your appointment with an audiologist. An audiologist undergoes further testing of your baby’s hearing by setting up a more thorough and medical evaluation, which is completely safe for the baby. These tests confirm whether your baby has hearing loss or not.
If hearing loss is found what can be done?
Hearing loss is established only after the hearing specialist or audiologist confirms it after undergoing the advanced hearing screening on your newborn. If it has been stated that your baby has hearing loss, it is imperative to find out the cause for it and the type of hearing loss.
There can be three types of hearing loss in babies:
- Partial hearing loss
- Total hearing loss
- One ear hearing loss
The causes behind any of these hearing losses can be:
- Hereditary hearing loss
- Hearing and vision loss
- Damage in the ear
When the causes and type of hearing loss is determined, specials tests are done to understand the degree of hearing loss and what measures can be done to treat it. The treatments that are undertaken to deal with the hearing loss in newborns are:
- Surgeries: If there is any hearing loss due to damage or is curable with a surgery, the doctors go for the surgical treatment as soon as they can.
- Early intervention program: whether or not the hearing loss is established, the newborns are started with early intervention programs before they turn 6 months old to help the child growth and develop their language skills.
- Language services: If the child’s hearing loss is non-curable through a surgery the doctors recommend language services for the child which includes total communication, oral communication. American Sign Language, etc.
Although the hearing screening test proves the newborn’s clear hearing but it doesn’t pick up all the permanent hearing loss. It can happen that the child may pick up a hearing loss after the tests or probably 8 or nine months after birth. So it is important to go through the baby’s hearing screening tests as they grow up, the details and guidance of which is often mentioned in baby’s personal health care record. It is also important to have a detailed check on the baby’s growth and development and have learning sessions for the baby throughout the first year to help prevent from any undetected disability to affect the baby’s growth and development.
Any concern, anytime regarding the baby’s hearing problems should be immediately reported to the doctor and treated as soon as possible.