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Newborn Hearing Test

(Newborn Hearing Screening; Auditory Brain Stem Response Test; Otoacoustic Emissions Test)

Definition

A newborn hearing test is done to check for early hearing problems. It is usually done right after birth. It may also be done in the first month of life.

The Ear

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Reasons for Test

The test is done to make sure that the baby does not have any hearing problems. Being able to hear well is important for babies. Babies use sound to learn about their surroundings. They also use it to learn how to speak.

If hearing problems are found early, a plan can be made to address them. The plan will help the baby learn to communicate as he or she gets older.

Possible Complications

There are no known problems that result from this test.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

There are no special steps to prepare for this test.

Description of Test

The most common newborn hearing tests are:

Otoacoustic Emissions

This test is given by a hearing specialist called an audiologist. A small microphone will be put in the baby’s ear canal. The ear then receives a sound. If an echo is found, that is a sign that the baby hears well. If there is no echo, this may be a sign of hearing loss.

Auditory Brain Stem Response

If needed, a mild calming medicine may be given to the baby. The audiologist will place earphones on the baby. Small devices called electrodes will be put on the baby's head. A sound will be sent to the earphones. The audiologist will measure how the baby’s brain responds to it. This can show how well the baby hears.

After Test

The audiologist will explain the test results.

How Long Will It Take?

Each test only takes a few minutes. It may take longer if your baby is restless.

Will It Hurt?

These tests should not cause pain.

Results

The doctor will advise if more testing is needed. A second test may be done if the baby does not pass the first test. Not passing the test does not always mean that the baby has hearing problems. Other things can affect the test. This includes fluid or wax in the ear. . If the baby is crying or moving during the test, it may also affect the results.

The doctor will advise if more testing is needed. , A specialist can help if the baby is found to have hearing loss. Specialists may include ear doctors and teachers.

Call Your Doctor

Call your baby’s doctor if you think the baby has a hearing problem. Sometimes babies develop hearing problems as they get older. Some possible signs are:

  • 0 to 3 months—does not respond to loud noises or your voice
  • At 12 months—does not imitate sounds or speak simple words like “mama”
  • Toddler age—has difficulty with:
    • Speaking
    • Learning
    • Listening to sound from the television
    • Paying attention
    • Talking with others
RESOURCES:

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
http://kidshealth.org

Baby Hearing—Boys Town National Research Hospital
http://www.babyhearing.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Speech-Language & Audiology Canada
http://www.speechandhearing.ca

The Hearing Foundation of Canada
http://www.hearingfoundation.ca

REFERENCES:

Hearing evaluation in children. Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/hear.html. Accessed December 22, 2020.

Initial newborn assessment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/initial-newborn-assessment. Accessed December, 2020.

Universal newborn hearing screening. Baby Hearing.org—Boystown national Research Hospital website. Available at: https://www.babyhearing.org/universal-newborn-hearing-screening . Accessed December 22, 2020.

Wake, M , Ching, T, Wirth, K, et al. Population outcomes of three approaches to detection of congenital hearing loss. 2016 Jan;137(1):e20151722.

Your baby's hearing screening. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/your-babys-hearing-screening. Accessed December 22, 2020.

Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 12/22/2020