Newborn Hearing Screening
Your baby's hearing is important for the development of normal speech and language skills. Even before birth, babies are listening to sounds inside their mother's body. Since three in every 1000 babies are born in the United States with hearing loss, it is never too early to test a baby's hearing. On average, hearing loss is first identified at 24 months of age. This is after important periods for learning speech and language have already passed.
It is recommended by the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, the National Institutes of Health, and the Healthy People 2000 document that hearing screening be completed on all newborn babies. Therefore, the State of Kansas and William Newton Hospital are working to lower the average age of identifying hearing loss from 2 years (24 months) to less than 3 months by testing your baby's hearing before you leave the hospital.
The hearing screening is performed in the nursery while your baby sleeps. The best time for testing is just after your baby has eaten or during nap time. Testing requires a quiet environment to get the most accurate results. After the hearing screening is completed, you will receive the results as well as a brochure discussing normal hearing development. If you are ready to leave the hospital and have not received the test results, please check with your nurse.
Your baby's hearing will be screened using Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) testing. The OAE test evaluates the hair cells in the inner ear. An auditory stimulus (click or tone bursts) is presented to the ear, and a microphone measures the "echo" that is returned from the baby's ear. The "echo" is analyzed to see how the inner ear is workingThe Newborn Hearing Screening program at William Newton Hospital utilizes Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). Otoacoustic emissions are sounds that are produced by healthy ears in response to acoustic stimulation. They are considered to be byproducts of the activity of the outer hair cells (nerve cells) in the inner ear.
OAEs are measured by presenting a series of very brief clicks to the ear through a probe tip that is inserted in the outer third of the ear canal. The probe contains a loudspeaker that generates clicks and a microphone that measures the resulting OAEs that are produced in the cochlea and are then reflected back through the middle ear. The resulting sound that is picked up by the microphone is digitized by the specially designed equipment.
OAEs only occur in a normal cochlea with normal hearing. If there is damage to the outer hair cells producing mild hearing loss, then OAEs are not evoked.