New born hearing screening

February 27, 2023

Today, most hospitals screen babies’ hearing shortly after birth in developed countries.

All newborns should be screened for hearing loss. Make sure your newborn’s hearing is screened before leaving the hospital. If your baby is born at home or not in a birthing center, make a plan for to consult a pediatrician to have their hearing screened and if needed, schedule a follow up consultation with an Audiologist.

OAE testing on Newborn

Why hearing screening is important?

Hearing screening for newborns are extremely important. A baby starts learning language, as soon as the moment they are born, by hearing the language spoken around them.

If a baby is not hearing, this will hinder the baby’s ability to pick up spoken language and learn to talk. Early detection of infant hearing loss allows for successful intervention to help the child meet normal or nearly normal speech, language, and hearing milestones.

Goal for Hearing Screening!

The main goal is to screen newborn babies before 1 month of age, diagnose hearing loss before 3 months of age and start intervention before 6 months of age.

Procedure for hearing screening

Hearing screenings for newborns and infants are simple and painless. Your baby rests or sleeps during the test. The two common screening methods for babies are oto-acoustic emissions (OAEs) and Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR).

Infants are screened first with Oto acoustic emissions (OAE).

Infants who fail the OAE  screening.  In this two tier screening program, the second tier being ABR is required only for a select few.

Two-Tier Screening: OAE Followed by ABR if the OAE is Not Passed

OAE testing
  • To provide options for newborn hearing screening and to reduce overall program costs, a two-tier screening approach can be used.
  • In this approach, OAE screening is completed on both ears first, followed in the same session by an ABR only for those newborns who do not pass the OAE screening.
  • Each ear must pass the OAE screening to be considered a "pass."
  • If the OAE screening is not passed in one or both ears, an ABR screening test is performed.
  • If the infant passes the ABR, the baby has "passed" the hearing screening.
  • If one or both ears do not pass the ABR, the infant is referred for outpatient diagnostic testing.
  • The rationale behind a two-tier approach is that OAE’s have lower disposables cost and are faster to perform than ABR.
  • However, OAE’s have a higher refer rate than ABR. Conducting an OAE screening first reduces the number of newborns who require an ABR screening.

Contributing Author
Ghanta Hinduja
M.Sc. Speech & Hearing
Audiologist & Speech Language Pathologist
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