Knowing the status of your baby's hearing first allows you to ensure their brain is accessing all the sounds it needs to grow!
Hearing is so essential to your baby's brain development that a newborn hearing screening (NHS) happens in most states before your baby even leaves the hospital. This screening lets you know as soon as possible if your newborn might have hearing loss. Hearing loss is more common than you might think and it's critical to address it right away.
Was your baby screened?
The NHS is safe, quick, and painless. It includes one or two gentle tests that can be conducted in your hospital room or infant nursery while your baby is asleep. They’ll either pass or fail. If they pass, it means there are likely no signs of hearing loss. If your baby fails, they’ll need a hearing evaluation, which is more in-depth testing.
Watch this video from Boys Town National Research Hospital so you’ll know what to expect for your baby’s screening.
You should receive the screening results before you leave the hospital. If your baby doesn’t pass, you’ll be given information about how to follow up. Depending on the state where you live, you’ll be given information either to follow up on a second screening or to move directly to a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Make sure you schedule this as soon as possible. If a screening wasn’t done or you didn’t give birth in a hospital, reach out to your pediatrician to get one scheduled within your baby’s first month.
Your baby’s sense of hearing is one of the most powerful tools they have to understand the world around them. As you and other caregivers interact with your baby, new brain connections grow as they hear you talk, sing, and read to them. Hearing is the building block for learning and those sounds help them learn to listen and understand speech.
If your baby doesn’t pass the newborn hearing screening, take action right away and schedule a follow up appointment.
Your next steps are important for your baby’s development. Schedule a re-screening with a pediatric audiologist as soon as possible, preferably within the first month after birth. Don’t wait. Birth to age three is the most important time to develop listening and speaking skills. If your baby needs hearing devices, you don’t want to waste any time. Make sure they can hear you so they don’t miss a single moment of you singing, reading, or saying “I love you.”
Your baby’s brain has been receiving sound even before they were born. Research tells us that babies start hearing about 20 weeks before birth, which is why most babies recognize their parents’ voices so quickly. You can help your baby learn to listen and talk by talking, singing, and reading to your baby from day one.
A hearing screening, or any hearing test, tells us the baby’s hearing status at a single point in time -- it’s a snapshot. Hearing loss can occur later for a variety of reasons so if you have concerns, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Keep in mind, children who have ear infections or other illnesses may need to have their hearing rescreened, especially before they begin preschool. Any blockage in the ear interferes with important sounds reaching the brain.
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