The absence of health problems is the most important factor for the full and happy development of a child. Therefore, already at birth, doctors conduct various tests to check the vital functions of the newborn, including the state of hearing.
After all, the child receives the first information about the world and forms an idea about it with the help of hearing and sight.
Many parents wonder why newborn hearing screening is so important. Is it safe for the baby? Let’s look at these questions together.
Why is newborn hearing screening necessary?
Newborn hearing screening is a medical procedure aimed at identifying hearing problems in newborns and children under 6 months of age. This simple and safe procedure helps you identify the problem early and take appropriate action.
It is important to understand that a child learns to perceive various sounds, including parental speech, and develops the essentials of language in the first 3 years of his life. Any hearing problems can significantly interfere with the proper speech development of the child. As a result, the child will not have commutative skills for communicating with peers and the outside world. It will lead to self-isolation and the development of various other difficulties.
Prescribe the correct treatment and appropriate devices (if necessary)
Develop an individual rehabilitation program
Reassure the parents if the child is healthy
Pediatric audiology can identify hearing problems at an early stage and provide timely assistance. According to the data, infants with hearing loss who received treatment before 6 months of age did not differ in development from their peers with normal hearing. Their speech and language development go at a normal pace. If, however, a hearing problem was not addressed in a timely matter,, such children will have significant developmental delays. It is very important that the initial hearing screening is done on time.
The implications for a child with hearing impairment are extensive. Being deprived of their hearing can cost a child academically and socially. Like anything with medicine, the earlier that a doctor identifies a problem, the better they can treat it.
Types and features of the first hearing screening
Parents are often worried during any medical procedure. This is not surprising, because newborns are often fussy during any procedures. If kids don’t like something, they scream and cry, but with newborn hearing screening, you don’t need to worry. The pediatric audiologist conducts it while the baby is sleeping. It is completely painless and safe.
Today there are 2 main tests for newborns, which help identify hearing problems.
Otoacoustic emissions (OAE)
The audiologist conducts diagnostics using a special device. It is a small portable device, which is equipped with a thin tube. A miniature tip is attached to the free end of the probe, making the probe look like a regular earpiece. It is carefully placed in the ear canal of the newborn.
The device produces test signals, which are sent to the child’s ear canal through a small microphone. The device triggers the hair cells in the inner ear. They can create their own vibrations under the influence of sound signals. An audiometer records these vibrations.
If the OAE device detects such vibrations, then everything is in order. Otherwise, do not panic, as the test requires clarification. It often happens that the first examination of the newborn shows failed results. But this does not yet indicate the deafness of the newborn. Often newborns have debris in the ear canals after birth, and it is recommended to wait a few weeks before reevaluation. A second newborn hearing screening should be performed to confirm the hearing loss.
Auditory brainstem response (ABR)
Another important test, which measures the response of the auditory nerve to clicking and tone sounds. Small sticker-like electrodes record the response and show whether the hearing nerve is transmitting sound. ABR is performed on each ear and thereby confirms the function of the hearing system to external stimuli.
OAE is required for every newborn, but there are circumstances that determine the need for an ABR. Both tests work great both individually and together, helping to determine the diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment when needed.
What to do, if my child failed the test?
Do not panic. The OAE may not get the passing reading during the first test, but this is not a verdict, as there are many factors that influence this screening. Background noise, baby noise and even debris left in the canal from birth will cause a non-passing reading in the screening.
Newborn Hearing protocol has specific guidelines to follow if there is an initial failed screening. Dr. Stella Fulman, our leading specialist, notes that in most cases, timely assistance allows the newborn to develop properly, and not experience problems in the future.
If in fact the hearing loss is diagnosed and confirmed within the first 3 months, intervention is quickly provided. The use of hearing aids or a cochlear implant is the most commonly used therapy for varying degrees of hearing loss. The pediatric audiologist will help you choose the most suitable course of treatment.
Newborn hearing screening is one the most important screening in every child’s life. Because of this, hearing losses in children are picked up very very early and with proper intervention the child can develop proper speech milestones and lead a regular life.
About Dr Stella Fulman
Dr. Stella Fulman, AU.D., CCC-A received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Audiology from Brooklyn College in 2004 and her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in 2008. [ Learn More ]