Newborn Hearing Screenings
Marion Downs was a pioneer in the field of Audiology and was instrumental in conducting the research that ultimately led to the passage of federal legislation requiring that all newborn babies be screened for hearing loss. Dr. Downs wanted to establish an organization where all individuals with hearing loss, regardless of communication needs, background, and level of hearing loss, could receive the services that they needed.
Marion says that her proudest moment was “when I saw the states, all the states, starting to adopt newborn hearing screening. After 40 years of working hard to convince people that it was the way to go, it finally materialized. You know, I felt, okay, who was it who said, ‘The most powerful thing in the world is an idea whose time has come?’”
Guidelines for Newborn Hearing Screenings
Hearing loss can affect a child's ability to develop communication, language, academic and social skills. The earlier children with hearing loss start getting services, the more likely they are to reach their full potential. Universal newborn hearing screening is and key element in ensuring that all babies have an opportunity to develop language in the timeline that nature intended.
Newborn hearing screening is a simple test used to determine if a baby might have hearing loss. The testing is simple and non-invasive. In fact, babies are often asleep while being screened. Screening itself only takes a few minutes.
All babies should be screened for hearing loss no later than 1 month of age. Babies who don't pass initial screening should be seen for follow-up screening within 2-3 weeks. If a baby does not pass a hearing screening, it's very important to get a full hearing test as soon as possible, but no later than 3 months of age.
When a person hears a sound, that sound information travels from the ear to the brain by way of electrical pulses. In a healthy auditory system, these electrical pulses travel at a specific speed and energy level. Audiologists are able to measure the speed and intensity of these pulses to determine if there is hearing loss or a lesion that is upsetting the flow of the sound information through the brainstem. This measurement is typically called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). Other names for this test are Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER), or Brainstem Evoked Response (BSER).
All babies and young children must sleep throughout the test as any muscle movement may contaminate this sensitive procedure. Babies under 6 months of age can typically be tested under natural sleep conditions in the clinic. Older babies and children often require sedation and testing is completed as an outpatient visit through the surgery center.
To measure the electrical pulses, small monitoring electrodes are placed on the scalp. Earphones provide a clicking noise to the ear, and the response from the brainstem is measured time-locked to the clicks. The clicks may become louder or softer or faster or slower to see how the brain responds to these different stimulus parameters.
If your child is scheduled for a natural sleep ABR test, we ask that you try to make sure they are sleepy when they arrive at the appointment. This includes keeping them awake in the car ride to the Hospital. If you have any questions about this, please call us at 720-848-2800.