Say What? Can Your Baby Hear You?

Can Your Baby Hear You? The birth of a healthy baby is a miracle. The child emerges with ten fingers and toes, perfectly formed to touch and kick in a big, new world. Nose and taste buds yearn for the first meeting with mother’s nutritious milk. A baby even opens its eyes trying to focus on the blurry faces of parents looming close, cooing their hellos and declarations of love.

Wait,” thinks 1 baby out of 1,000. “Something is missing. You’re cooing and kissing but I can’t hear a thing!!??” Indeed, no adults seem to notice that in spite of all this activity, all is silent to the baby.

After the birth, our baby is pulled out of its mother’s warm and protective arms into the hands of a pediatrician for examination. Seemingly, with a fine tooth comb, he makes sure that all is complete and well, and that there are no defects or deficiencies to be addressed before the baby leaves the hospital. The physician looks into every opening, fold and crevice, tests the limb joints and reflexes, listens for the heartbeat and breathing, and almost always gives the delighted parents the clean bill of health, congratulations and the measuring tape with the baby’s length noted.

Why was this baby, and nearly 50% of all babies with later-discovered hearing issues, sent home from the hospital synapse xt after delivery with undetected hearing loss? The reason is that hearing loss detection tests were not routinely performed on infants until recently, when Government sponsored universal screening programs were initiated for newborns.

Why is it important to identify infants with hearing loss?

The ability to detect hearing problems in newborn infants is crucial. Studies have shown that being able to process auditory information early in life is crucial for later development of reading and spoken language skills. Hearing loss is associated with social and emotional developmental lags in children as well as poor academic achievement.

What is the incidence of congenital hearing loss?

Congenital hearing loss can be found in two to three infants per 1,000 live births. That means that there are approximately 5,000 babies born in the United States each year with bilateral permanent hearing loss.

How do you define hearing loss in newborns?

Newborns are checked for moderate to severe bilateral permanent hearing loss. Current testing after birth does not pick up loss that is progressive or acquired later in life. The current testing programs detect hearing losses at a threshold of 30-40 dB in the frequency important for speech recognition (500-4,000 Hz)

What are the characteristics of children that are most likely to have hearing loss?

Babies who were determined to be at high risk for hearing loss include children that were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit for more than 2 days, (1-2 cases of hearing loss for every 200 babies), premature infants, children with craniofacial anomalies, family history of hearing disorders, children whose mothers developed infections in utero, and children who are born with certain syndromes. However, it was found that close to half of all the children not in the high risk group were missed. Therefore, about 50% of all children with hearing problems were sent home from the hospital with undetected hearing loss.

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