Today, the vast majority of newborns receive a hearing screening before they are discharged from the hospital. While most infants can hear fine, 1 to 3 of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. have hearing levels outside the normal range. Two types of objective test technologies can be used to screen for hearing loss in newborns: otoacoustic emissions (OAE) and the auditory brainstem response (sometimes called ABR test or BAER test). These screening tests can detect 80-90% of infants with moderate degrees of hearing loss and greater. However, no screening test is perfect. Children with mild hearing loss may pass newborn hearing screening. Newborn hearing screening cannot identify children with late onset or progressive types of hearing loss.
The CDC recommends that all babies who do not pass the first screening should have a complete hearing test before 3 months of age. Even when an infant passes a hearing screening test in the hospital, it is important to monitor developmental milestones for hearing, language and speech. If your child was born with visual, cognitive or motor disabilities, a comprehensive audiological evaluation would be important to ensure your child’s hearing is completely normal.