Newborn babies and their hearing development is something we cannot overlook. Nearly 50 babies with permanent hearing loss are born every day in the United States. Early identification of children with hearing loss can make a huge difference. The goal is to begin treatment as soon as possible, including hearing aids, speech and language therapy, family counseling and early education.
The push for early identification of hearing loss received a boost with the passage of the Newborn Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 1999. Today more than 90% of newborns have their hearing screened before leaving the hospital. Recent regulations in Pennsylvania have made infant hearing screenings an essential part of newborn check-ups.
Testing for hearing loss in infants
The increased interest in newborn hearing screenings has been stimulated by advances in testing methods. The most widely used method is automatic, quick administer and inexpensive. Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing measure the “echo” of the inner ear to sound. A sound generator and a probe microphone are placed in the ear canal to measure the ear’s response to thousands of extremely brief sounds.
OAE measurements have the advantages of being objective measurements, can be fully automated and do not require the cooperation of the infant.
The purpose of early identification is to begin audiologic rehabilitation as soon as possible. Infants who do not pass a follow-up screening should immediately be referred for complete audiologic assessment. The infant’s physician should also be involved as early as possible. The family will need support and guidance as they learn about early intervention services, including medical and audiologic care, amplification, speech/language therapy and family counseling.
Studies have demonstrated that infants with hearing loss who receive treatment prior to six months of age have:
-Significantly better speech production and language skills
-Language in the normal range throughout early childhood
-Parents who experience significantly less stress