Why Newborn Hearing Screenings Are So Important

Approximately 1%-2% of newborns suffer from significant hearing loss. However, prior to 1993, only newborns that were considered high risk for hearing loss (such as low birth weight or family history of hearing loss) were screened at birth. This resulted in roughly 6,000 affected babies each year going undetected. On average, children weren’t identified till they were 2 ½ to 3 years old, with some not being identified till ages 5 or 6.

Newborn Hearing ScreeningWhile this might not seem like a big deal, a study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the year 2000 found that children diagnosed with hearing impairments at an early age demonstrated language skills comparable to their hearing peers. The following year, another NIH-funded study found that children identified with hearing loss by six months of age or younger, who were then enrolled in a treatment program, scored significantly higher in language skills than children identified after six months of age. Lastly, a 2006-study revealed that “infants who begin remediation for their hearing loss before six months of age experience emotional and social development in parallel with their physical development”.

The benefits of early detection don’t end there. When children receive treatment early in life, in the form of a cochlear implant, are more likely to be placed into mainstream classrooms. Researchers estimate this can save families between $30,000 to $200,000 in special education costs by the time the child completes high school.

Newborn hearing screenings can be done in two ways. The first is called an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR), which measures how the hearing nerve responds to sound. The second is Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) and it measures sound waves produced in the inner ear. Both tests are painless and can be done with your baby lying still or even while he/she is asleep. Either test can be completed in just 5 to 10 minutes!

If you would like to learn more about a newborn hearing screening, contact us today. Our experienced hearing care professionals are here to help!