Newborn Hearing Screens
All babies born in Texas receive a newborn hearing screen in the hospital before going home. This test is required by the state of Texas so hearing loss can be identified as soon as possible. About 2-4 out of every 1,000 babies born have hearing loss.
What is a Newborn Hearing Screen?
This is a test to see if a baby may have hearing loss. There are 2 types of screening tests. Both are quick and painless to the baby.
Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)—This measures how the hearing nerve and brain respond to sound. Clicks or tones are played through soft earphones into the baby's ears. Three electrodes placed on the baby's head measure the hearing nerve and brain’s response.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)—This test measures sound waves produced in the inner ear. A tiny probe is placed just inside the baby's ear canal. It measures the response (echo) when clicks or tones are played into the baby's ears.
If a newborn “passes” the hearing test, no follow up is needed. But it is important to remember that hearing loss can develop to anyone at any time. Any degree of hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to listen, learn and talk. A child’s hearing and/or speech and language development can be tested at any time by an Audiologist.
A “fail” result does not mean that your baby has hearing loss. It means that your baby needs more testing. Your baby needs to see a licensed pediatric audiologist as soon as possible for a Hearing Rescreen or a test called a Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation. Call to schedule your appointment as soon as possible, no later than 2 weeks after the hearing screen. Texas Children’s has a team of pediatric audiologists experienced in testing, diagnosing and treating newborns.
FAQs after a baby fails a newborn hearing screen
Why does my baby need another hearing test?
- The hearing test will determine if your baby has hearing loss, how serious it is, and what can be done to help.
- Detecting hearing loss should occur as early in life as possible.
- What your baby hears, or does not hear, affects brain development.
- Any degree of hearing loss can affect your baby’s ability to communicate.
- By identifying hearing loss early, your baby can receive the right type of care.
What is a Hearing Rescreen?
This is the same test that was conducted in the hospital. Schedule the Hearing Rescreening with an audiologist. The baby may pass the second test. If the baby fails, a different hearing test called a Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation is needed.
What is a Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation?
For babies, the Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation is called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test. The ABR is completed while a baby is sleeping and gives information about the baby’s hearing. The ABR is completed by placing sticky recording pads on the baby’s forehead and ears. Sounds are played through small headphones, and the responses are recorded on a computer. The ABR is painless. The test lasts about 2 hours.
What can I do to prepare for the Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation?
To get the best ABR test results, your baby needs to be asleep. Please follow these instructions:
- Do not let your baby nap before the appointment.
- Do not feed your baby for 3 hours before the appointment. The audiologist will tell you when to feed your baby.
- Bring a blanket, extra diapers, clothes, formula, and anything else that will help your baby be comfortable for the test.
- Please do not bring other children to the appointment. The room needs to be silent.
What causes hearing loss?
There are multiple risk factors for hearing loss in babies. These include:
- Acquired infections (such as meningitis)
- Genetic factors
- Lack of oxygen during birth
About 50% of babies born with hearing loss have no risk factors.
Monitoring a baby’s development
Even if the Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation indicates that a baby does not have hearing loss, parents or caregivers should still get a child’s hearing checked throughout childhood. Since speech and language are tied to a baby’s ability to hear, failure to meet speech and language milestones may indicate the need for additional hearing tests.