Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to delays in a child’s speech, language and social skills. This is why newborn hearing screenings are the standard for hospitals across the U.S. The sooner a hearing loss is identified in your child, the better their chances for developing language skills alongside their peers.
What Are the Signs of Hearing Loss in Infants?
It is possible for a baby to pass their initial hearing screening even if they have hearing loss, which is why it’s important to look out for the signs, including:
- Not startling at loud sounds
- Not turning toward sound sources by six months old
- Not saying simple words (e.g. ‘mama,’ ‘dada,’ baba’) by one year old
- Not responding to their name
- Ability to hear some sounds but not others
How Is Hearing Loss Tested in Infants?
Hearing screenings are a simple process that are totally painless and are performed while your baby is sleeping. There are two tests that are commonly used:
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
This test measures how the auditory system responds to sounds. Electrodes are placed on the baby’s head to measure brain activity while clicks or soft tones are played through earphones.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
This test measure soundwaves produced in the inner ear. It is performed by placing a tiny probe inside the ear canal that measures the echo within the ear when clicks or tones are played.
What Hearing Aids Are Available for Babies?
The best style of hearing aids for babies is behind-the-ear, though for infants with severe to profound hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be recommended.
Behind-the-ear hearing aids are suitable for most kinds of hearing loss, from mild to severe. Their batteries are long-lasting, and many models have special features like telecoil and Bluetooth compatibility. BTE devices have a variety of color options and work well with FM systems. The soft earmold in a BTE devices is safe for babies during play and does not cause pain if it gets hit or damaged.
Cochlear implants are recommended for babies who do not benefit from traditional hearing devices and who have sensorineural hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear. Rather than amplifying sounds like a hearing aid does, cochlear implants work by bypassing the damaged part of the inner ear and directly stimulating the auditory nerve. Surgery is required for a cochlear implant.
To schedule an appointment for a hearing exam for your infant, call the Hearing & Balance Center at Charleston ENT today!