Hearing Screening Tests
Most hearing loss is congenital (present at birth), but some babies develop hearing loss after they are born. Hearing loss is more likely in premature babies, and babies with infections or respiratory problems requiring long-term use of breathing machines, infection, and certain medications.
Because of these risks, many health organizations including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommend universal infant hearing screening. Today, nearly all newborns are screened for hearing loss, which allows earlier treatment to prevent delays in language and development.
Types of testing:There are two primary types of hearing screening methods for newborns. These may be used alone or together.
- evoked otoacoustic emissions (EOAE) - a test that uses a tiny, flexible plug that is inserted into the baby's ear. Sounds are sent through the plug. A microphone in the plug records the otoacoustic emissions (responses) of the normal ear in reaction to the sounds. There are no emissions in a baby with hearing loss. This test is painless and is usually completed within a few minutes, while the baby sleeps.
- auditory brainstem response (ABR) - a test that uses electrodes (wires) attached with adhesive to the baby's scalp. While the baby sleeps, clicking sounds are made through tiny earphones in the baby's ears. The test measures the brain's activity in response to the sounds. As in EOAE, this test is painless and takes only a few minutes.
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