For children, early identification is the primary goal for management of hearing loss. Most states have a high-risk registry that identifies children who may be prone to congenital or progressive hearing loss as well as a screening procedure for all newborn babies. If your child is determined to be at risk or his or her infant hearing screening comes back with irregular results, your hospital physician will recommend an infant hearing evaluation. It’s vital to schedule this evaluation as soon as possible if your child is identified as at risk for hearing loss on his or her infant screening. Children begin learning language while in the womb. Every minute without sound can affect their speech and language development, education, and future.
Newborn Hearing Tests
Your otologist and audiologist at Heuser’s downtown Louisville hearing clinic may recommend a few or all of the hearing tests effective for newborn hearing exams. Here is an overview of the tests your child may undergo during an infant hearing assessment:
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
The ABR evalutation is frequently used with children and infants because it can be completed while the child is asleep or playing quietly and doesn’t require any response. Electrodes are taped to the infant’s ears and forehead to measure electrical activity from the auditory nerve to the brainstem. Sounds are then presented to the infant’s ears at various pitches and will measure the softest sounds the infant can detect.
Once completed, ABR tests reveal the presence or absence of sound sensitivity, which can be used to predict or identify hearing loss. ABR evaluations should be scheduled at a time when your infant is likely to be sleepy. Immediately prior to testing, a bottle may be given in order to help the infant sleep. The test usually takes 30 minutes once the infant is sleeping, but you should allow about two hours for the entire procedure.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
Otoacoustic emissions tests evaluate the function of the inner ear. OAEs simply identify the presence of inner ear function, but they don’t measure the amount of hearing. The test can be performed while your baby is awake as long as he or she is quiet and still. The procedure is painless and takes less than two minutes per ear. This test is typically paired with brainstem response evaluation or behavioral hearing assessment.
Frequency-Specific Tympanometry and Reflexes
This is primarily a test of middle ear function to identify fluid or infection in the middle part of an infant’s ear. Reflex testing, in the presence of normal middle ear function, can help to confirm other test results. The test is conducted while the infant is either awake or asleep. A probe is placed into the infant’s ear while measurements are made. The test is painless and takes less than one minute per ear.
What should we bring?
Please bring a bottle and any other items (pacifier, blanket, etc.) that may help your child fall asleep or relax. If you are breastfeeding, feeding can take place in private or during testing, depending on your preference. Since the entire procedure may take 1–2 hours, please bring extra diapers and dress your child comfortably.
When will we know the results?
The results of the test will be explained immediately after testing is complete. Typically, results are conclusive; however, some types of hearing problems will require further testing. In rare cases, you may need to reschedule your appointment if your baby is unable to fall asleep and, depending upon your child’s tolerance, testing may be repeated with sedation.