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Hearing Loss in
Audiologists can now identify different types of hearing loss in newborns and infants. If the screening testing suggests a hearing loss, follow up with complete testing should include both a diagnostic otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test and an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test to confirm the hearing loss and point to management techniques.
Why should we screen for hearing loss?
The lack of hearing can keep a child from learning language and speaking normally. Language and speech are among the most important skills we need to impart to our children so that they can become literate, self-sufficient citizens when they mature.
Who should be screened for hearing loss?
There are people who feel all newborns should be screened, and others who feel that we should start with children at high risk (for example: prematures, jaundiced babies, infants with family history of deafness, etc.). But, everyone agrees that the earlier the diagnosis is made, the better for the child. Dr. Christy Yoshinaga-Itano has shown that when hearing impaired children who receive treatment before six months old, language develops far earlier than for children who are not managed until after one year. In fact, some children managed early show normal language development comparable to normally hearing peers.
How is hearing screening in newborns done?
There are two commonly used screening tests:
(a) An automated ABR which does a computer controlled screening ABR test and tells the operator whether or not to refer for full diagnostic work up. This evaluates the effectiveness of the inner ear and nerves in sending messages to the brain.
Not always. Although, if you feel your child has a hearing problem, trust your judgment and ask for some objective tests to validate or allay your concerns. Most audiologists today rely on objective tests in addition to their own clinical observations. While any objective test can be misinterpreted or poorly administered, they usually help confirm/refute the behavioral observations which, in turn, can be done under highly controlled statistical and computer controlled conditions.
This article was originally submitted by Charles I. Berlin, Ph.D., Director, Kresge Hearing Research Laboratory of the South, LSU Medical Center, Department of Otolaryngology, and subsequently edited by AAC.