You welcome your baby into the world, and now the nurse mentions something about newborn hearing screening. You probably read something in the preparation for your baby about all the checks and things when they are born. But was hearing screening mentioned?
Hearing loss can be identified as early as in a newborn baby. Our hearing is important for cognitive, emotional and social development. Our hearing abilities develop at 16 weeks in utero. From that stage forward babies can hear from inside the womb. There are multiple causes for babies to be born with a hearing loss, such as genetics, ear malformations, prematurity and birth complications. Therefore, it is important that their hearing is check as soon as possible. Luckily, the hearing screening can be done while your baby is sleeping.
But how do we test such a small baby’s ears?
The test involves a tiny probe to be placed in the ear and soft sound is played into the ear to measure a response. The test sends a sound to the inner ear. The results give indication to the audiologist whether the tiny hair cells in the cochlea is working well. This test allows the audiologist to identify a vast majority of congenital hearing losses.
Fun fact: if a child’s hearing loss is identified before the age of 6 months and receive the proper intervention, they will catch up with their normal hearing peers before they attend primary school!
Milestones for babies hearing to reach in the first few months of life:
Startle in response to sudden loud sound
Responds to sounds, music or voices
Soothed by soft sounds
Recognizing their parent’s voices by 3 months
Say their first word at about 12 months
The most important take home message today is, early identification is key!
So do not hesitate to take your newborn for a hearing screening.