What Is an Infant Hearing Test and Why Is It Important

Infant Hearing test

If you’ve ever seen a newborn, you’ll likely agree that they look pretty perfect – tiny fingers and toes with little wrinkles all in the right places, blemish-free skin, fine hair, and beautiful eyes that touch your heart. Inside all that outward perfection, however, there could be some imperfections lurking – things like hearing impairments that aren’t visible to the naked eye. This is why an infant hearing test is so important.

What is an infant hearing test

Babies themselves are nothing short of a miracle. How they start out as a tiny embryo and end up as a mini version of yourself in your arms in the delivery room is mind-boggling. It’s also amazing how they’re born with everything they need … or at least they are most of the time. Sometimes, genetic or environmental factors play a role in not giving newborns what they need. This is when modern healthcare can be a huge benefit – we can discover what’s missing, how to treat it, and the baby can then progress from there.

In the old days, parents often did not even know that their baby had a hearing problem until much later. Now, infants can undergo hearing screening before they even leave the hospital. Depending on the test performed, potential problems with the nerves responsible for hearing can be identified, or abnormalities in how the ear processes sound can be found. Both are useful in determining whether or not an infant has hearing loss or other hearing impairment.

Why are infant hearing tests important?

Healthy hearing is important for the proper growth and development of any child. Your baby will start to learn as soon as it’s born, and being able to hear well will help it detect and interpret various environmental stimuli. These are then used in the development of speech and language. Studies have shown that when hearing impairments are not identified and treated before 6 months of age, children will encounter speech and language problems later on in development. Infant hearing testing helps these impairments be discovered before they can negatively affect other areas of development.

What types of hearing tests are available for infants?

Unlike some medical procedures, infant hearing tests are quick and painless. In many cases, the baby even sleeps through the entire procedure. There are two main types of an infant hearing test available:

  1. Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) – This measures the functioning of the nerves responsible for hearing. Sound is played through soft headphones in the baby’s ears and a series of three electrodes attached to her head measure the nerves’ response to the sound.
  2. Oto-acoustic Emissions (OAE)This test measures the function of the cochlea and how it produces and responds to sound. Small probes are inserted into the infant’s ear canals. When sound is played, the probes measure the cochlea’s response, giving the doctor clues to the status of the child’s hearing.

What do I do if my newborn fails her hearing test?

The purpose of newborn hearing testing is to identify any hearing abnormalities early on so that they can be addressed. Sometimes, however, the results are inconclusive or incorrect. Test results can be misleading if the testing room was noisy, if the infant moved too much or had fluid in her ears during the test, or if the testing equipment didn’t fit well.

If any abnormalities are discovered during the newborn infant testing, schedule an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible. This hearing professional will do a further hearing evaluation, if necessary, and determine whether or not your child does, in fact, have hearing loss or other impairment. Once a final determination is made, the cause of hearing loss can often be found and treated. Possible treatment options include assistive listening devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or treatment for another medical condition that may be causing the hearing problem.

The bottom line is that hearing is important for the normal development of your child. If you or your baby’s doctor suspect any hearing impairments, it’s important for them to have an infant hearing test right away, to get any potential hearing loss identified and treated early.

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