What comes next if your baby doesn't pass the newborn hearing screening

My baby failed the newborn hearing screening! What next?

It is one of the first things they test when your newborn arrives, a simple, non-invasive hearing screening. The vast majority of newborns have no issue, but what if the screening uncovers a potential problem?

We checked in with Shawna Bohn, AuD on why this screening is so important and what you can expect to happen next if your baby’s newborn hearing screening suggests a problem.

Why are newborn hearing screenings important?

Audiologist Shawna Bohn talks newborn hearing screening

Audiologist Shawna Bohn

“Newborn hearing screenings are very important. Prior to them becoming mandatory, a hearing loss was not usually noticed until the child was not talking at 18-24 months of age.

Children were missing out on the primary years of learning speech and language, causing significant educational delays.

Now we can screen hearing in infants right after birth, and we can diagnose hearing loss very early. The earlier the diagnosis the earlier the habilitation can begin.”

If an issue is revealed in the hearing screening, what next? 

If your baby appears to have a hearing issue during the initial screening they will be referred for the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) testing. Shawna explains, “Your baby will be asleep during the ABR testing and if they sleep well we usually give the results of the testing immediately following the test.”

What do the tests reveal?

“We are able to tell the degree and type of hearing loss. If we’re concerned about conductive hearing loss which is usually not permanent we will refer to a pediatric Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physician.”

Conductive hearing loss

A conductive hearing loss suggests there is a problem with the way sound conducts from the environment to the inner ear and often can be corrected by medication or surgery.

“Once the middle ear dysfunction is resolved baby will probably come back to the audiologists for a follow up ABR.)”

Permanent hearing loss

“If your child has permanent hearing loss that cannot be resolved they will get referred to the ENT doctor for medical clearance for use of amplification if appropriate.

Hearing aids (amplification) can be fit on an infant at 3-6 months of age. This will minimize the amount of time that they are deprived of sound and the spoken word. With amplification and therapy a hard- of hearing child can be at the same level as their normal hearing peers in speech and language development by age 2.”

The American Academy of Audiology (AAA), as well as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), each dedicate the month of May to raising awareness of hearing loss. We thank our audiologists and speech-language pathologists for the incredible work they do every day at Tucson Medical Center.

To access services call (520) 324-2075 or fax referral to (520) 324-6162

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