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Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing Screening for Newborns

All babies born at Jefferson Abington Hospital receive a hearing screening before going home. This screening can detect possible hearing loss in the first few days of your baby's life. Most newborns can hear normally; however, about three of every 1,000 newborns will have some degree of hearing loss. About half of children with hearing loss have no risk factors. If hearing loss is detected, further testing will be done to confirm it. When a hearing loss is detected, early intervention is critical.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is the decreased ability to hear sounds. It can be mild to severe, temporary or permanent and interfere with learning to talk. Hearing loss can affect one or both ears and can be caused by:

  • too much wax or a blockage in the outside ear canal
  • infection or fluid in the middle ear
  • a problem with sound waves being detected and passed on to the hearing nerve
  • a problem with the hearing nerve and the connection to the brain
  • a problem with the hearing center within the brain

Why is a hearing screening so important?

One of the ways newborns learn is through listening. If a hearing problem exists and is not recognized and treated, babies will have problems with language development. Babies who receive early intervention and treatment by six months of age usually develop good language and learning skills.

How is a newborn hearing screening done?

At Jefferson Abington Hospital, the auditory brainstem response (ABR) screening test is used. This test measures sound waves produced in the inner ear. A tiny probe is placed just inside the baby's ear canal to measure the response when tones are played into the baby's ears. This test takes about 10 minutes to complete, is painless and is done while your baby is asleep or lying still.

What if my baby does not pass the hearing screening?

If your baby does not pass the hearing screening, it does not mean that your baby has hearing loss. In fact, most babies who do not pass the screening have normal hearing. But to be sure, it is extremely important to have further testing which can confirm whether hearing is normal or not.

What can be done if hearing loss is found?

Babies with hearing loss should be seen by a hearing specialist (audiologist) and a pediatric ear/nose/throat doctor (otolaryngologist). Special hearing tests can be performed by the audiologist, who along with the otolaryngologist can tell you the degree of hearing loss and what can be done to help.

If hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids and speech and language services may be recommended for your baby.

The outlook is good for children with hearing loss who begin an early intervention program before the age of six months. Your pediatrician will review your baby's test results with you and discuss the next steps.

Jefferson Abington Hospital
Maternal Health Services
1200 Old York Rd.
Abington, PA 19001

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