Marla Ahlgrimm Stresses Importance of Infant Hearing Screenings
Some birth defects are not visible, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. Some of these, however, such as problems of the ear that affect hearing, can have a profound effect on a child’s ability to communicate. Ahlgrimm says that infant hearing screenings are a valuable tool for all parents and answers questions about the process and benefits of early intervention.
Q: When should my baby have her hearing checked?
Marla Ahlgrimm: All hospitals now offer audio screenings shortly after birth, before mother and child are released from care. Children born outside of a medical facility should be tested as soon as possible by their pediatrician or a hearing specialist. The CDC recommends hearing tests before one month of age with a follow up scheduled no later than three months of age if issues are suspected.
Q: Are the screenings invasive?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Not at all! There are two types of tests most commonly used for newborns, Automatized Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). AABR measures nerve response to soft clicks and gentle tones played to the baby through special infant headphones. OAE gauges the echo produced by the inner ear. Neither test is uncomfortable and may be performed while the baby is awake or asleep.
Q: What are some signs of hearing loss in older babies and children?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Babies with hearing loss at birth do not react to sudden noises and may not turn their heads when their mother speaks. Older children may experience delayed verbal skills, speak more loudly, or fail to respond to when spoken to unless directly looking at the speaker’s mouth.
Q: How is hearing loss prevented?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Babies born with hearing problems likely inherited the condition from one or both of their parents. There is currently no way to determine if a child will have full hearing until after birth. The good news is that early intervention, typically a cochlear implant, may give the child hearing and speech that rivals their “normal” hearing peers.