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Is Newborn Hearing Screening Necessary for my Baby?

Newborn Baby Feet

According to The Singapore Association for the Deaf, research has shown that about 0.1% (or 1 of every 1,000) babies born in Singapore have severe or profound hearing loss. About 0.5% (or 5 of every 1,000) have lesser degrees of hearing loss. Starting remedy and support as early as possible is crucial for their growth. The hearing screening test allows babies with hearing loss to be picked up in the first few weeks after birth.

When will the hearing test take place?

Your baby will be submitted to a hearing screening test within the first few weeks of their life — from 12 hours old. The hearing test is often done immediately before leaving the maternity unit. Rarely will it be carried out at home. Your midwife or screener can tell you where and when the screening test will occur. If your baby is unscreened, ask your child’s health nurse, midwife, local audiology department, or family doctor to set an appointment.

What does the screening involve?

A qualified hearing screener performs a hearing screening test. There are two tests are done to screen a newborn:

ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) — A tester is connected to your baby’s forehead, back of their neck, and shoulder using sticky pads. Small earphone ‘cups’ are then set over the baby’s ears. The earphones create soft clicking sounds, and the leads measure the reaction from their ears.

OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions) — A tiny soft-tipped earpiece is set in the outer part of your baby’s ear, which transmits clicking sounds down the ear. When an ear receives sound, – the cochlea (inner ear) usually produces an echo. The screening tool can pick up a reaction. The tests may take a few minutes and do not hurt your baby. It is usually done while they are asleep or settled.

When can I get the results?

You’ll acquire the results as soon as the test is completed. The outcomes will be written in your baby’s Personal Health Record book, sometimes known as your “baby book.”

What do the results imply?

If the hearing screening shows a clear reaction from both of your baby’s ears, it’s unlikely that your baby has hearing loss.

Some babies are required to have a second test to achieve a precise result. A ‘refer’ outcome requires the hearing screen to be repeated within a few weeks. It doesn’t necessarily imply that your baby has a hearing issue.

The initial screen result may be influenced by a fluid or substances that have got into the ear canal during birth, temporary middle ear fluid or if the testing area is too noisy, or your baby is too agitated.

It is tough to tell how well a baby can hear by watching their behaviour, so the hearing screening must be repeated.

Suppose your baby doesn’t pass the second hearing test. In that case, they will be directed to a pediatric audiologist to test if they have a hearing problem. The audiologist will see your baby as soon as possible if they do not pass the follow-up hearing screen in both ears.

Suppose your baby passes the hearing screen in only 1 ear. In that case, the audiologist will see your baby at about 2 to 3 months, or sooner if possible.

The audiologist will do a complete hearing assessment. If there is a hearing problem, the tests will also reveal whether it’s likely to be temporary or permanent. Your child will obtain proper treatment and support.

What if I deny taking the test?

You may decline consent for your newborn’s hearing screening. This will be documented in your child’s Personal Health Record. You will also be requested to sign a form verifying that you declined when the screen was offered.

You should still get data about the screen and why it’s important even if you choose not to have your baby screened. If you care about your child’s hearing or speech and language development in the future, please set the child’s hearing test.

Solutions for small children with hearing impairment

Cochlear implantation is a safe and trustworthy treatment for children with severe to extreme hearing disabilities. The acquisition of hearing for these children is the primary benefit children receive from these advanced devices, which promote and aid the development of spoken language and conversations.

Children as young as one year of age are allowed to be implanted with the device. The earlier the implantation takes place, the better the outcome will be. It is best to have the treatment before your child reaches age 3, as early as possible.

Cochlear Implant by The Listening Lab has more than 4 decades of global and regional experience in hearing assessment, consultations, and treatments. We aim to be a safe space for people who have undergone cochlear implants in Singapore or are planning to, as well as for their loved ones. If you are unsure which cochlear implant to choose, book a consultation with us today to learn more about cochlear implant options for your child.