Hearing Tests in Newborns

Screening with Hearing Tests

Ideally, screening tests for hearing loss should be conducted before the infant is 1 month of age.

Who should undergo screening with hearing tests?

Current recommendations indicate that all newborns before the age of 1 month should undergo screening with hearing tests. If the screening test detects a decrease in hearing, a complete audiological examination should be done before the baby is 3 months of age. Children at high risk for developing hearing loss should undergo regular monitoring till the age of 3 years.

What are the tests done to check for hearing during screening?

The following tests are used for screening for hearing loss:

  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs): This is a reliable test that detects even mild hearing loss. It can be performed by a non-audiologist as well. A small probe is inserted into the ear canal of the baby and is connected to the recorder in a quiet room. A small sound like a click serves as the stimulus. This results in minute vibrations in a normally functioning inner ear, which are picked up by the probe. The test can be performed in as less as a few seconds. Sometimes, debris or fluid in the ear may result in a wrong diagnosis. In such cases, the test could be repeated or the auditory brainstem response test can be performed.
  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test: This test is done in those who failed the otoacoustic emissions test. During this test, an electrical response is evoked in response to a click stimulus introduced to earphones placed in the ears, which is recorded using electrodes placed on the head of the baby. The baby may require sedation for this test.

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