Each birthing facility will be responsible for selecting and securing appropriate hearing screening equipment according to standards. Currently there are two measures used to screen hearing in newborns: Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). It is important to note that there are important differences between the 2 methods.
One of the tests is called otoacoustic emissions or OAEs. For this test, a miniature earphone and microphone are placed in the ear, sounds are played and a response is measured. If a baby hears normally, an echo is reflected back into the ear canal and is measured by the microphone. When a baby has a hearing loss, no echo can be measured on the OAE test.
Auditory Brainstem Response
The second test is called the auditory brainstem response or ABR. For this test, sounds are played to the baby's ears. Band-aid like electrodes are placed on the baby's head to detect responses. This test measures how the hearing nerve responds to sounds and can identify babies who have a hearing loss.
What if my baby passes?
If your baby does not have risk factors for hearing loss and has passed the newborn screen test, then your baby's doctor will continue to assess your baby's hearing and speech/language development along with other milestones at each of your baby's regular visits.
What if my baby does NOT pass the hearing screening?
If your baby does not pass the hearing screen at birth, it does not necessarily mean that your baby has hearing loss. But to be sure, it is extremely important to have further testing. This should include a more thorough hearing evaluation and a medical evaluation. These tests should be done as soon as possible, but definitely before your baby is 3 months old. These tests can confirm whether hearing is normal or not.