Families

Does My Baby's Hearing Need to be Tested?

Newborn hearing screening is a simple way to find out if your baby may have a hearing loss and need testing. It takes only a few minutes and is done while your baby is sleeping.

Información en español

¿Qué tan bien oye su hijo? Lo que los padres deben saber

How is my baby's hearing screened in the hospital or birth center?

There are two ways to screen a baby's hearing. Both ways are comfortable, take only a few minutes and are done while your baby is sleeping.

  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) uses a special computer to measure how well your baby's hearing nerve responds to sounds that are sent to your baby's ears through earphones or ear tips.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) uses a special microphone and computer to measure the response of your baby's ear to soft sounds that are sent through earphones or ear tips.

What does it mean if my baby passes the newborn hearing screening?

If your baby passes the newborn hearing screening, you do not need more testing at this time. Just remember your baby's hearing does not have to be perfect to pass.

A small number of babies who pass the newborn hearing screening can lose their hearing—suddenly or gradually—before one year of age or older. If you have a family history of permanent childhood hearing loss, your baby should be tested every year.

What do I do if my baby did not have a newborn hearing screening?

Your hospital will make every effort to complete the hearing screening before your baby goes home. If your baby did not have a newborn hearing screening, call your hospital to make an appointment. A nurse may call you to remind you that it is important to have the hearing screening.

If you deliver at a birth center, your baby should receive a newborn hearing screening at one of the follow-up appointments. Call the birth center to make an appointment if your baby did not have a newborn hearing screening at one of the follow-up appointments.

What does it mean if my baby did not pass the newborn hearing screening?

There may be several reasons why your baby did not pass the hearing screening:

  • Your baby was too active or did not sleep during the hearing screening.
  • The room was too noisy when your baby had his/her hearing screening to get good screening results.
  • Your baby has a hearing loss—either temporary or permanent.

Whatever the reason may be, if your baby did not pass the newborn hearing screening, he or she needs to have further testing. It is important to find out if your baby has a hearing loss as soon as possible so that your baby can receive assistance learning speech and language beginning the first few months of life.

What should I do if my baby did not pass the newborn hearing screening?

Your baby needs to have a full diagnostic audiologic evaluation to determine if your baby has a hearing loss and to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. The diagnostic audiologic evaluation should take place before your baby is 3 months old. Your baby's doctor should refer your baby to a pediatric audiologist for this evaluation.

Why does a pediatric audiologist need to test my baby’s hearing?

There are safe, accurate and effective ways to determine how well a child hears at any age. A pediatric audiologist is specially trained and has the proper equipment to provide developmentally appropriate test techniques for infants and children to determine the type and degree of hearing loss.

How do I know if my baby is developing speech and language?

If you have any concerns at all about your baby's speech and language development or if you think your baby does not hear well, be sure to talk to your baby's doctor right away. Here is more information and a checklist (scroll to bottom of the page when you open the link) that shows typical ways a baby demonstrates speech and language appropriate for his/her age. Speech and Language Developmental Milestones

The Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Program of the PA Department of Health (PA DOH) helps families by ensuring that newborns receive a hearing screening no later than 1 month of age and providing education and support. PA DOH also works to ensure that babies who do not pass their hearing screen receive a diagnostic evaluation by an audiologist no later than 3 months of age and that babies who are diagnosed with a hearing loss are enrolled in Early Intervention no later than 6 months of age.

Find out more about the Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Program

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