The complete resource for NICU families from admission to discharge and beyond

Why is my baby having a hearing screen?

Undiagnosed hearing loss in a newborn baby can permanently harm that child’s speech and language development. It is now the law in all 50 states that every newborn baby undergo a hearing test before s/he leaves the hospital after birth. As many as 6 in every 1,000 newborn babies born in the United States will be born with hearing problems. As many as 20% (20 of every 100) premature and sick post-NICU babies will have serious hearing loss as a result of their problems after birth. A specialized newborn hearing screen performed just prior to discharge is the best way to identify babies who may have hearing problems. The test done in the NICU doesn’t hurt your baby and doesn’t make a definitive diagnosis. Babies receiving a “refer” on the newborn hearing screen need to be thoroughly evaluated by a hearing specialist, an audiologist, to be certain. Most babies referred to the audiologist will NOT have hearing problems, but hearing loss is so very important that it’s better to be safe than sorry! After discharge from the NICU, your pediatrician should continue to test your baby’s hearing. If your child is not babbling and starting to say words during his/her first years of life (see “How old is my baby”), you need to tell your pediatrician about your concerns.

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