Newborn hearing screening provides an early diagnosis of hearing impairments.
Hearing impairment must be diagnosed in the first months of the child’s life, so that some preventive action can be taken. Therefore, neonatal hearing screening (NHS) , also called the little ear test , is an extremely important procedure for diagnosing a hearing impairment.
NHS should be performed in the first days of the baby’s life, preferably between 24 and 48 hours after birth. The maximum period for carrying out the test is one month. It is a right guaranteed by law, but many hospitals do not carry out the exam and do not inform mothers of the need to carry it out. It is up to the child’s parents to always be aware of the exams that must be done.
NHS will follow different protocols according to the newborn’s profile. If the newborn does not have any risk factor, the Evoked Otoacoustic Emissions (EOAE) test will be used. In case of failure in the first exam, this will be repeated. If another failure occurs, the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potential (BAEP) test will be performed. If this last exam also does not present a satisfactory result, the baby should return after 3 months for a new evaluation. Babies who had a satisfactory result in the ABR, but not in the EOAE, will have to be reassessed during a period of three months.
EOAE is a faster and simpler exam than BAEP. The EOAE is recommended for people without risk because it is able to detect cochlear hearing loss of 30-35 dB, but does not identify retrocochlear hearing loss. The ABR, on the other hand, identifies retrocochlear hearing loss, thus being indicated for newborns at risk of hearing loss.
The EOAE is performed using equipment that generates sound impulses that stimulate the cochlea. The equipment will then show how the cochlea will respond to these stimuli. The exam does not cause pain in the baby and can be done while he is sleeping.
In cases in which hearing impairment is detected, it is recommended that the treatment begin until the child is six months old. Research shows that children treated early develop more than children who start treatment at 2 or 3 years of age.
Watch out for any signs of hearing impairment. If your baby doesn’t respond to noises, such as falling objects or thunder, or doesn’t calm down with your voice, something could be wrong. Look for the pediatrician in cases of suspicion.
Your baby needs all affection and care, so it is important that all the exams indicated for the early stages of life are carried out in order for him to have a healthy development.