Early Hearing Tests Detect Loss in Newborns

Early Hearing Tests Detect Loss in Newborns

  • baby with toys waiting for hearing test

baby with toys waiting for hearing testHave you noticed that your newborn doesn’t respond to loud noises, or maybe she plays with one or both of her ears? New babies have little in the way of communication so you have to rely on their behavior to determine whether or not they may have hearing problems. If you see signs of hearing impairment in your infant, it may be time to see an audiologist where several tests can be done to determine the severity and causes of the symptoms.

1. Auditory Brainstem Response

The first hearing test performed by your child’s audiologist will measure how his hearing nerve responds to sound.

For the test, soft headphones will be placed in the newborn’s ears and three electrodes will be specifically placed on his forehead and ears. Clicks or tone bursts are then played into the baby’s ears through the headphones and the electrodes record the auditory nerve’s response. The clicks are a series of electronic impulses of broadly-ranging frequencies while a tone burst is a constant electrical signal.

It is a non-invasive neurologic test of brainstem function that can be performed while the infant sleeps, which is actually preferable for accurate results.

2. Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)

In 2013, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concluded that the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) screening is a potentially effective method for identifying young children with permanent hearing loss.

To perform the test, a small probe will be inserted into your infant’s ear that will measure the sounds given off by the inner ear when the cochlea is stimulated by sound which causes the outer hair cells to vibrate. When a baby hears normally, an echo can be measured by the microphone, but no echo will be present in newborns with hearing loss.

OAE screenings can detect blockages in the outer ear canal, the presence of middle ear fluid, and damage to the outer hair cells of the cochlea.

3. Tympanometry

Though it is not a hearing test, Tympanometry is considered a valuable component of audiological evaluations.

This objective examination is used to test the condition of the middle ear and the mobility of the eardrum, or tympanic membrane. Your child’s audiologist will insert a tympanometer into his or her ear canal and the device will change the pressure present in the ear, generate a pure tone, and measure the eardrum’s responses to the sound at varying levels of pressure.

This exam can help diagnose and monitor hearing problems including middle ear fluid or infection, a tear in her eardrum, or a problem with the Eustachian tube.

Half of the children born with hearing loss have no risk factors. The AAP recommends hearing screenings for all newborns before they leave the hospital. If possible hearing loss is detected during these initial tests, treatment and early intervention are key to helping your child develop their speech and language skills.


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