The Results Are In: Learn What to do After a Newborn Hearing Screening

By Hearing First Team November 5, 2015

"Hearing First" | listening and spoken language, LSL outcomes, hearing technology, parent advice, NBHS, newborn hearing screening, hearing testing

97% of all newborn babies in the U.S. receive a hearing screening — but most expecting parents don’t understand how essential this test is to their baby’s future. Hearing loss is the single most common birth anomaly, yet it’s rarely on our radar. Learn what to do if your baby has failed their newborn hearing screening.

Chances are, you hadn’t thought much about a newborn hearing screening until now. Of all the things on your mind for delivery and the early days of a baby’s life, hearing loss is rarely on a new parent’s radar. Despite the fact that it’s actually the single most common birth anomaly. So first — if all of this is new to you — take a deep breath. You’re not alone.

Why does hearing matter? And why this early?

Good hearing provides a clear pathway for sound to travel through the ears to the brain. It’s important for many reasons. Your baby’s brain needs sound right away in order to activate the auditory pathways. Think of it like touching a phone or computer to get it to “wake up.” Sound helps grow connections in the brain that will allow a child to begin learning, which sets up the building blocks to speaking later.

If their hearing isn’t working, it’s like the doorway to those future brain connections is blocked. If hearing loss has “blocked” the brain’s access to sound — you want to know as soon as possible. You don’t want your baby to miss out on the sounds and spoken language that surround them now. Missing those early sounds can create problems for speech, language, and reading development later.

A newborn hearing screening, completed as soon after birth as possible, is the first step to making sure your baby’s brain is getting the information it needs to develop.

What is a newborn hearing screening and how does it work?

A newborn hearing screening is a simple, gentle test done in the hospital to check your baby’s hearing. In most states, that test is given shortly after birth. In fact, more than 97% of all newborn babies in the U.S. receive a hearing screening automatically.

Before you leave the hospital, make sure your baby has had their hearing screening and that you know the results. If for some reason the screening was not done in the hospital, reach out to your pediatrician to get one scheduled within their first month after birth.

What happens if a baby doesn’t pass the newborn hearing screening?

Referral — First, he or she will be referred for further testing within the first month after birth to determine what is going on in their ear. Some hospitals provide rescreening, while others may refer you to a pediatric audiologist for more comprehensive hearing testing. Consider scheduling a follow-up appointment before you leave the hospital. The hospital screening program or attending pediatrician can point you in the right direction for services in your area.

Rescreening and Further Testing — It’s important that you respond quickly to schedule a rescreening or further testing. You do not want to wait. If your baby needs hearing technology to get auditory information through the doorway their brain, it needs to happen quickly.

If hearing loss has blocked the doorway…
There are medical and technological ways to get auditory information (the information that sound conveys) to your baby’s brain. Babies with hearing loss can be fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help them hear as early as 7 days after birth — and they should receive help within the first 90 days.

Act fast! — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend being fitted as soon as possible and no later than 3 months of age. Many hearing professionals recommend getting fitted within 6 weeks after birth in order to activate the baby’s auditory brain pathways. Act quickly so your baby will not miss out on early experiences that are key to successful listening and early brain development.

"Hearing First" | listening and spoken language, LSL outcomes, hearing technology, parent advice, NBHS, newborn hearing screening, hearing testing

About the Author

Hearing First Team At Hearing First, we want all children to benefit from the availability of newborn hearing screening, the advances in technology, and the early learning services in their communities. We want all children to have the opportunity to take advantage of access to sound – a critical building block for future success.