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Maine Newborn Hearing Screening Questions & Answers

Child Receiving Ear Exam from Audiologist
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Why Should My Baby's Hearing Be Screened?

How Will My Baby's Hearing Be Screened?

How Long Do the Screenings Take?

What do the Results "Pass" and "Refer" Mean?

 

Why Should My Baby's Hearing Be Screened?

An estimated 3 out of 1000 babies are born with hearing loss each year in the United States.  Although it is unlikely that your baby will have a hearing loss, if there is one, it is important that you know about it as soon as possible.  Many parents believe that they would know if their baby had a hearing loss.  This is not always the case.

The first 2-3 years of life are the most important for learning to listen and for developing language and speech. Too often, hearing loss is not found until a child is 1 to 2 years old, when serious delays have already occurred. Current research shows that when a hearing loss is found early on (within the first 3 months of life), given proper treatment, a child may learn normal language skills, and may be far more successful in school.

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How Will My Baby's Hearing Be Screened?

Since your baby cannot tell us what she hears, her hearing sensitivity may be estimated using 2 different methods, both of which are completed while your baby is sleeping naturally.

One method measures OAE's (Otoacoustic Emissions).  Tones or clicking sounds are presented to your baby's ear through a soft probe in the ear canal.  Healthy inner ears will emit a sound back to the probe in response to those tones or clicks.  This response is then analyzed by a computer. 

The second method is the ABR test (Auditory Brainstem Response).  Soft clicking sounds are presented to your baby's ear through small earphones.  A computer measures the response of the hearing nerve pathways from sensors that are placed on the forehead and on or near the baby's ears.

Both of these tests are very safe.

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How Long Do the Screenings Take?

Each screening test may take only minutes to complete, while more in-depth tests may take much longer, depending on how well and how long your baby sleeps.

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What Do the Results "Pass" and "Refer" mean?

If your baby receives a "Pass", you can feel reasonably sure that his or her hearing is normal at the time of the screening. **

If you baby receives a "Refer" result (which is not uncommon), it may be the result of left-over debris in the ear canal after birth, or too much noise in the test environment.  A "Refer" result may also mean that your baby has a hearing loss.  A second screening test or more in-depth testing may be recommended.

**Because certain unusual types of hearing loss may not be detected by these methods, and because some hearing losses develop later on, it is important that you pay attention to your child's hearing and speech as he or she grows.  If you should ever feel that your baby does not hear well, be sure to tell your child's primary care provider about your concerns.

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If you have any questions concerning the information this page, please contact us by e-mail.

 

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