What is Newborn Hearing Screening?
Newborn hearing screening is a practice to test the hearing abilities of a newborn child in their first few days of life. The best time for a newborn hearing screening is the time right after birth.
Do you know that nowadays, many hospitals do offer a newborn hearing test for babies before you take your child to home? All the states in the US and several other Western countries today have implemented these screening protocols within the birth clinics and hospitals. In India, newborn hearing screening is gaining importance gradually since the last decade. Newborn babies usually have their hearing screening in the nursery or in their mothers’ room of the hospital they were born in.
Newborn child hearing test is not at all painful and is quite easy. Usually, babies stay asleep while getting a screening. The process is very short and usually takes only a few minutes.
Why is it Necessary?
You might think that your child has a normal hearing and he or she can hear quite well. But even if a child may hear and respond to certain sounds, that doesn’t mean that your child is having perfect hearing health. There may be mild hearing problems which usually go unnoticed, and if not treated on time, would have great consequences. Because every sound is food for the brain!
Hearing loss in infants is a common problem these days. Studies show that about 1 to 2 in every 1000 newborn babies has significant hearing loss. So before you regret not taking action at the right time, do get a newborn hearing test done to make sure whether or not your kid is able to hear well.
Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Children
If your child shows the following signs, then it is likely that he or she is suffering from some kind of hearing problems -
Has difficulty understanding or following directions or instructions, or what others are saying
Develops different speech and language skills as compared to his or her peers with normal hearing, thus speaking differently
Responds inappropriately to questions
Doesn’t reply when called by name
Often wants to watch the Tv or hear the radio louder than usual
Often comes up with ‘what?’ or ‘huh?’ when spoken to
Shows signs of speech and language delays
Is academically backward compared to his or her peers with normal hearing
Complains of ear pain or hearing ringing or buzzing noises
Depends on lip-reading and closely observing the actions and body language of people he or she is speaking to
Has difficulty speaking over the phone
What is the Need for an Early Intervention?
To intervene early is to act as early as possible and relax only after you make sure that your child’s hearing is well and healthy. Starting from the newborn hearing test to the hearing loss treatment (only in case your baby is diagnosed with hearing loss), you need to take full care of your child’s ability to hear. And the earliest time is the period immediately after birth - without waiting for days or months.
A child’s learning capabilities are at their maximum in the first 2-3 years of age. It is only during this time that a child learns and develops all the communication and other developmental skills. If your child misses this golden period, then your child would not develop well because beyond this time the learning abilities gradually starts decreasing as the child grows up.
What are the Screening Tests?
A newborn baby’s hearing screening test can be done with the help of two different methods, namely -
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) - Also known as the BERA test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Responses), it measures how the auditory nerve and the brain of your child respond to sound. Soft earphones are placed inside your baby’s ears and clicks or tones are played. The objective of the BERA test is to determine and analyse the transmission of the electrical sound waves from the eighth cranial nerve of the brain to the brainstem, in response to the sounds played.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) - The OAE test measures how sound waves are produced in your baby’s inner ears. In this test, a miniature microphone and earphones are placed inside your baby’s ears to measure his or her response to sounds played into the ear such as clicks or tones. If a child baby has normal hearing, then the sounds would trigger an echo in the ear canal. This echo is measured by the microphone that is placed inside it. If your child is born with a hearing loss, then this echo won’t be produced and hence it won’t be recorded in the microphone.
Auditory Steady-State Response (ASSR) - ASSR is an objective test that is used to evaluate the hearing ability of children who are too young to participate in traditional hearing diagnostic tests. For instance, since most of the traditional hearing tests require the candidate to make responses upon hearing a sound, a very young infant won’t have that ability to express or give the necessary response. Medical professionals often refer an ASSR test after a child is found with any indication of a possible hearing problem in a newborn hearing screen performed in the hospital after birth.
Is BERA Test Safe for Infants?
BERA test is absolutely safe with no side effects at all. It is non-invasive in nature and is therefore painless. It won’t harm your baby and is one of the safest child ear tests which are routinely performed in newborns.
What Happens If My Baby Doesn’t Pass the Newborn Hearing Screening Test?
If your baby is screened positive with a hearing loss during newborn hearing screening, you will be referred to a Paediatric Audiologist, who would do further tests to determine the intensity and the nature of the loss. However, there are many times in which a child may not pass the newborn screening tests, but that often doesn’t mean that your kid is born with a hearing loss. Often screening tests fail due to various reasons like a noisy area or technological problems. Further tests done would be able to tell you whether your child is hearing impaired.
Why Hearing Plus?
We have a professional team of qualified and trained Audiologists who would provide every support regarding paediatric hearing loss and child hearing care. Our professional team is specialised in providing rehabilitative services with our avant-garde technology and instruments.
If you are stuck with, ‘Where can I find the best clinic for BERA test near me?’, then you can visit your nearest Hearing Plus hearing aid centre. It houses professional and certified Audiologists who are experts in hearing diagnosis and providing rehabilitative services and other support to the hearing impaired population in India.
Apart from the above newborn hearing tests, like the ABR, OAE and BERA test, we have ENG test, VEMP test, ECochG test, ASSR test and others which are used to test other aspects of related to hearing and balance.