New Born Hearing Screening

Why does my baby need a hearing screen?

Permanent hearing loss occurs in approximately 2 to 3 babies per 1,000 births. Hearing loss in babies is easy to overlook because you cannot see it, and babies cannot tell us they are unable to hear.

About half of the babies born with hearing loss are healthy and have no family history of hearing loss. To make sure each baby with hearing loss is identified shortly after birth, Tennessee law requires hospitals to screen all babies before leaving the hospital.

Finding out that your baby has a hearing loss soon after birth means that he or she will not miss opportunities to learn how to use language. Research shows that children whose hearing loss is identified early have better language, social, and academic skills.


How is a hearing screen performed?

The hearing screening method used is Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). It is very safe and takes only a few minutes. Most babies sleep through their hearing screen. The OAE method uses a soft ear tip to measure faint sounds that echo from the ear. A computer determines if these sounds are normal. OAE is a widely accepted way to rule out significant hearing loss.

What if my baby does not "pass" the hearing screen?

If your baby does not pass the hearing screen, you will need to have your baby tested again. The hospital staff should provide you with an appointment for this second test before you are discharged. It is very important to get this appointment no later than two weeks after your baby leaves the hospital.

Will my baby ever need another hearing screen?

Some babies who pass their hearing screen at birth may develop a hearing loss later for a variety of reasons. If you ever have concerns that your child cannot hear normally or is developing speech at a slow rate, ask your baby's doctor to help you schedule another hearing screen.

Most new parents can’t wait for the day when their child talks for the first time.

When it finally happens, grandparents are alerted, baby books are inked in with dates and times, and cell phone ringtones are replaced with the newly recorded cooing of “da-da.”

But in order for your baby’s first words to arrive on time, you need to make sure that his or her hearing is okay.

Early identification of hearing loss allows them to get the help they need during the first 2 years of life, which is a critical period for the development of speech and language skills.

Developmental Milestones
These are things your baby should be doing if he or she has normal hearing. If you are concerned that your baby is not showing one or more of these behaviors, it is important to tell your baby’s doctor immediately.

No later than 3 months:

Startles to loud sounds

Quiets to your voice

Changes sucking pattern to sounds

Makes pleasure sounds (coos, goos)

Cries differently for different needs

No later than 6 months:

Turns eyes toward sounds

Notices that toys make sounds

Starts babbling using sounds like “m” “b” “p”

Uses voice to indicate excitement or unhappiness

No later than 12 months:

Imitates some speech sounds

Uses different sounds to babble (nana, upuh, bibibi)

Has one or two words which may not be clear (bye-bye, mama)

Responds to her/his own name

Understands common words like “cup” “shoe” and “juice”

Turns head toward softer sounds

Responds to music with movement