Newborn Hearing Tests

Hearing Screen

All newborn babies have their hearing tested before they are discharged from the hospital. The earlier we know that a baby can't hear, the earlier treatment can begin. With hearing loss, the earlier the treatment begins, the better. Every state has an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program that works to identify infants and children with hearing loss and promotes timely follow-up testing and services for any family whose child has a hearing loss.

Newborn hearing tests are SCREENING tests. The word "SCREENING" is the important thing here. The test is designed to be REALLY SENSITIVE, so that no baby who could possibly have hearing loss is missed. The hearing testing equipment is complicated. The technician who tests your baby is specially trained to be able use the equipment.

Wired Up

The down side to the sensitive settings of the equipment is that babies who have NORMAL HEARING sometimes don't pass the test. If your baby doesn't pass, please be patient. Not passing the test is really common if the baby is born by Cesarean section, or if the baby is born before 38 weeks gestation. He will get more chances to pass the test before you go home.

› How does newborn hearing screening work?
  (links to an external webpage)

Even if he doesn't pass in the hospital, he will get checked again in two or three weeks. In my experience as a pediatrician, most babies who need to have their hearing tested again after they leave the hospital will pass the hearing test at two to three weeks of age.

If a baby doesn't pass the test at two to three weeks of age, they quickly see ear and hearing specialists, and treatment is started long before the baby starts to talk. This is good.

Thanks to Janelle Aby MD, Stanford School Of Medicine, Newborn Nursery, and Lucille Packard Children's Hospital for the use of occasional photographs.