10 January 2017 - By GENWORKS
The newborn hearing screening test helps to identify babies who have permanent hearing loss as early as possible. This means parents can get the support and advice they need right from the start. This is what we call the ‘Golden Hour’. It means detecting any medical issues at the right time. The right time is when it can be mitigated and cured with the best and least medical intervention.
One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears.
This increases to about 1 in every 100 babies who have spent more than 48 hours in intensive care. Most of these babies are born into families with no history of permanent hearing loss.
Permanent hearing loss can significantly affect a baby’s development. Finding out early can give these babies a better chance of developing language, speech, and communication skills. It will also help babies make the most of relationships with their family or carers from an early age.
How is the newborn hearing test done?
The test is called the automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) test. It takes just a few minutes. A small soft-tipped earpiece is placed in your baby’s ear and gentle clicking sounds are played. When an ear receives sound, the inner part (called the cochlea) responds. This can be picked up by the screening equipment.
It’s not always possible to get clear responses from the first test. This happens with a lot of babies, and does not always mean your baby has a permanent hearing loss. It could mean:
• your baby was unsettled when the test was done
• there was background noise
• your baby has fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear
In these cases your baby will be offered a second test. This may be the same as the first test, or another type called the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) test.
The AABR test involves placing three small sensors on your baby’s head and neck. Soft headphones are placed over your baby’s ears and gentle clicking sounds are played. This test takes between 5 and 15 minutes.
These tests will not harm your baby in any way.