All babies born in Connecticut hospitals, and most other states in the U.S., have hearing screenings shortly after birth. It is possible to measure parts of a baby’s hearing even a few hours after they are born. There are two ways this is accomplished, either with Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) or Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR.)
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) are measured by placing a soft tip at the opening of the ear canal. A machine generates a series of sounds that stimulate the hair cells in the cochlea, the organ of hearing. If those hair cells are working, they make a little echo that the machine can measure. The machine alternates between generating sound and then “listening” to see if the echo comes back. The OAE machine measures the hair cells at a range of frequencies, so the hearing specialist can get a rough idea of which parts of the hearing are ok. OAEs typically take less than a minute per ear and do not hurt or harm the baby in any way.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
ABR measures how the hearing nerve responds to sounds. ABR is assessed by placing electrodes on the baby’s head. A series of clicks or tone beeps are introduced into each ear and the electrodes measure the child’s brainwaves. The sounds are then made softer and softer until the brainwaves are no longer visible. This tells the audiologist whether the baby’s nerves respond to soft sounds and different pitches or frequencies. ABR can take 30-90 minutes, is safe and does not hurt Usually this is done while the baby is sleeping.
Hospitals have different protocols for doing one or both of these tests. If a baby fails the screening at the hospital, is born at home or elsewhere, or if recommended by their pediatrician, they may have repeat testing of one or both of these tests.
Young babies are easiest to test because they sleep right through the entire evaluation. Our audiologists often ask the parents to feed the baby right before the testing so the baby will be full, content and sleepy during the test.
If a baby fails a repeat hearing screening at our hearing specialty practice, we refer parents to one of our Ear, Nose and Throat physicians to investigate the underlying cause of the results.
Our audiologists at Advanced Audiology and Hearing Aid Services can perform complete and in-depth hearing tests for any age. We see a variety of pediatric patients with hearing problems. We encourage parents with any concern about their child’s hearing to seek an evaluation with our Ear Nose and Throat physician and audiologist. Our physicians and audiologists have the knowledge and experience to give you the best advice on your child’s hearing. Advanced Specialty Care Audiology and Hearing Aid Services are located in located in Danbury, New Milford and Norwalk.
– Jocelyn Dore AUD