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Nearly two out of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. each year have some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss can impact a baby’s ability to develop speech, language and social skills. That’s why early detection and treatment for hearing loss are important for your baby’s overall health and development.
Every baby born at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women® receives a newborn hearing screening prior to hospital discharge so hearing loss can be identified and treated as soon as possible. This test is required by the state of Texas as part of its universal newborn hearing screening program established in 1999.
To help our patient families, we answered some commonly asked questions about newborn hearing screening and what every parent needs to know if their baby has been diagnosed with hearing loss.
What is a newborn hearing screening?
This screening is designed to determine the likelihood of hearing loss in your newborn and if more in-depth testing is necessary. The screening result will be a pass or fail/refer.
Your baby’s first hearing screening is completed after delivery before leaving the hospital. If your baby was born at home or at a birthing center, ask your pediatrician about scheduling a hearing screening.
Below are several external resources parents may find beneficial:
What if my baby failed their newborn hearing screening?
If your baby fails the initial screening in the birth hospital, it does not mean he/she has permanent hearing loss. It means additional testing is needed. If your baby fails the newborn hearing screening, it is important to schedule follow-up testing with a pediatric audiologist. Diagnostic hearing tests performed by the pediatric audiologist will determine your baby’s hearing status.
What if my baby has permanent hearing loss?
If diagnostic testing confirms permanent hearing loss, a hearing aid or cochlear implant will likely be recommended by the pediatric audiologist. Permanent hearing loss does not necessarily mean deafness. There are many levels of hearing loss ranging from mild to severe/profound. The pediatric audiologist will diagnose the level of hearing loss. Follow-up testing will be completed periodically to monitor your baby’s hearing. The pediatric audiologist and your baby’s pediatrician will work together to establish a plan of care. Additionally, early interventions services will be recommended.
What causes permanent hearing loss in babies?
The cause of permanent hearing loss in babies varies, but common causes include:
- Genetic disorders or syndromes
- Infections at birth, like congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Exposure to maternal infections
- Ear malformations
- Birth complications or trauma
- Premature birth or low birth weight
- Exposure to certain medications at birth
Your baby’s pediatrician or an otolaryngologist might recommend viral testing for CMV in the first three weeks of life, genetic testing or imaging studies (i.e. CT or MRI scans) to explore the cause of hearing loss. In many cases, the cause is unknown.
What should I do if my baby passed their newborn hearing screening?
This is a good indication that his/her hearing is normal, but a passed screening is not a guarantee of normal hearing. A mild hearing loss might not be detected by the screening, and some babies born with normal hearing could lose their hearing over time. Schedule follow-up testing if hearing concerns arise or if your child fails to meet age-appropriate speech and language milestones. Click here for a hearing checklist for parents, and click here for the Spanish version.
If a parent or caretaker is concerned about their child’s speech, they should schedule a hearing test. To schedule an appointment, go to Texas Children’s Audiology Center, or please call 832-822-3249.