Newborn Hearing Tests

Hispanic man feeding baby before the newborn undergoes hearing tests.

Babies start learning as soon as they are born. Hearing is a key sense they use to become aware of the world around them. That’s why it’s so important to check a baby’s hearing at birth and during development. Here are six things to know about potential newborn hearing problems and hearing tests.

Common congenital issue

Hearing loss is the most common congenital issue in the United States. Up to 3 in 1,000 babies are born with some type of hearing loss. During pregnancy, usually there are no known risk factors or signs that the baby will have a hearing problem.

Test hearing early

Newborn babies’ hearing should be tested within a few days after birth. At least 95% of newborns receive hearing screening tests prior to hospital discharge.

Testing is painless

Newborn hearing tests are painless, they take less than 10 minutes and are conducted while the baby sleeps.

Common hearing screenings – There are two types of common hearing tests for newborns:

    • Evoked Otoacoustic Emissions– A small probe is placed inside the ear to measure the response of the hearing nerve when clicks or tones are played into the ear.
    • Auditory Brainstem Response– Electrodes placed on the baby’s head measure the hearing nerve’s response when clicks or tones are played into the baby’s ears through soft earphones.

Causes of hearing loss –

Over 50% of newborn hearing loss may be linked to a faulty recessive gene. Both parents may hear well, but their kids have a 25% chance of having a hearing deficiency.

Risk factors for hearing loss

Hearing problems also can be caused by genetic syndromes. During pregnancy, the baby may develop hearing problems if the mother drinks alcohol or is diagnosed with German measles, a viral infection or the flu. Other risk factors for hearing loss include premature birth, jaundice or birthing difficulties.

As kids grow and develop, parents should watch for signs of hearing problems. Kids can develop hearing impairment if they have frequent ear infections, chronic illnesses or if there is a family history of hearing loss.

Good hearing is important for kids to learn and stay safe as they grow. Read this blog about five things to know about kids and hearing loss. And, this article provides more details about newborn hearing tests.

Hearing Health Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Stanford Children’s Health

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