Newborns and Infants
Today, most hospitals screen babies’ hearing shortly after they are born. Failing the hearing screening does not necessarily mean that the baby has a hearing loss. Not all babies pass the hearing screening the first time. Infants who do not pass a screening are usually given a second screening to confirm the findings.
If your baby has failed a hearing screening, you will be referred to a pediatric audiologist for a more thorough hearing test. This is called a hearing evaluation. Keep in mind that an audiologic evaluation is much more than “just a hearing test!”
Infant screening is very important because, without such programs, the average age of detection of significant hearing loss is approximately 14 months. When hearing loss is detected late, language development is delayed, affecting a child’s ability to learn and perform in school.
Even if your infant passes screening, hearing loss may develop later in life. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, talk to your doctor and request a hearing evaluation with a certified audiologist.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that infants and toddlers with disabilities be identified and provided appropriate screening. You should contact your local school district or your state or local health department to find out how to obtain screenings/evaluations and intervention services through your state's Early Intervention program.
The screening procedures for newborns and infants are simple and painless, and can be done while the infant is resting quietly. The two common screening methods used with infants are otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) and auditory brainstem response (ABR). These tools can detect hearing loss averaging 30 to 40 decibels (dB) or more in the frequency region important for speech recognition, e.g., approximately 500–4000 Hertz (Hz).
Older Children and Adults
In the case of older children and adults, the most commonly used initial screen involves a pure-tone test. School age children should be screened periodically through their schools. Adults are often screened at a doctor's office or community health fair.