Newborn Hearing Screening

Why should we screen newborn for hearing?

Newborn Hearing Assessment is a screening test to ensure that every newborn child is hearing normally. Every year many children are born with some kind of hearing problem or acquire hearing loss due to certain factors around the birth period. Many such babies go undetected and hence untreated. These children will never acquire decent hearing and therefore will never have normal speech, unless detected and treated early.

In 2006, India launched the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness. This programme is currently running in over 60 districts of the country and its aim is to identify babies with bilateral severe-profound hearing losses by 6 months of age and initiate rehabilitation by 9 months of age. Under this programme,  two-part protocol for infant hearing screening is being implemented, one is Institution-based screening aim is to screen every baby born in a hospital or admitted there  soon after birth using hearing screening devices. Those who fail the test are re-tested after 1 month. Those who fail the second screening are referred for ABR testing.

How is the test done?

This screening test is done using OAE and/or AABR.

How the test perfomsOTO ACOUSTIC EMISSIONS- OAE is a simple hand held device which measures acoustic impulses from the baby’s hearing organ (COCHLEA). Since the device is portable, the test is easily performed bedside, in the paediatric ICU or at times even in private rooms with relatively quiet surroundings. The simple results obtained are interpreted as PASS or REFER. PASS indicates that  child is hearing well and REFER indicates the need for further tests.

AUTOMATED AUDITORY BRAINSTEM RESPONSES-AABR test measures not only the integrity of the inner ear, but also the auditory pathway.

Is this test harmful for the child?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!! The test is not at all harmful as it does not require any sedation or anaesthesia. As the test is simple and without any disadvantages; several hospitals, maternity home and paediatric clinics in India and abroad have started conducting them on each and every newborn.

When should the test be done?

This simple test is ideally done on every newborn baby before he/she is discharged from the hospital, maternity home or ward. However this test can be done at any age where the possibility of hearing loss exists.

What if Hearing loss goes undetected for a long time?

REMEMBER IF BABY HAS HEARING LOSS SINCE BIRTH HE/SHE WILL NOT SPEAK TOO!!  This is because when you do not hear sounds; your brain (Speech Area) never recognizes what sound it is. By detecting hearing loss early it is now possible to help the baby achieve near normal hearing, good speech and language which is essential in day to day life.

What happens when a child is detected to be having loss?

Solutions are now available!

Further test are recommended and appropriate measure like parent guidance, hearing aid trials, speech therapy and cochlear implantation are undertaken to enable good hearing and speech.

9 Signs of Hearing loss in infants:

  • Failure to startle to loud sounds
  • Inability to locate the source of sounds by, for example, turning the head towards the person speaking. Children with normal hearing will usually try and locate a sound source by around the age of 5-6 months.
  • Babbling fades or changes to more high-pitch screaming sounds at the age of around 6-8 months
  • Lack of normal response to sounds – does not respond to his or her own name by the age of 6 months.
  • Failure for babbling to evolve into recognizable speech sounds and finally to words during the child’s second year of life.
  • Failure to respond to simple commands such as “bring daddy the ball” by around the age of 1 year unless the child is looking directly at you and seeing your body movements.
  • Withdrawing from social activities and showing more aggression in day to day life
  • Frequently not understanding commands.
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