"Congratulations! Your baby has passed the newborn hearing screening. No further testing is needed at this time!" This is definitely what every dad and mom wants to hear about their precious newborn! As new parents, this is one of many things we tend to worry about as we hold that tiny newborn and watch them learn, grow, and pass each milestone. So, how do you know if your baby has hearing loss?
Risk Factors for Newborn Hearing Loss
I am definitely not a pro in this area, so I asked for some information from my sister-in-law, Shakira Nash, who works at her local hospital administering hearing screenings to newborn babies. She explained to me that babies are at a higher risk of developing hearing loss at any age if they have been on oxotoxic medications—antibiotics such as gentamicin, streptomycin, neomycin, if there is a history of hearing loss in their family, or if they have had an injury or any damage to their ear. It's also important to note that aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen should not
be administered to your baby because these medications can also cause hearing loss. Premature babies are also at a higher risk, but if they have hearing loss you'll probably know about it before you leave the hospital after their birth because of routine hearing screenings. Other risk factors include down syndrome, postnatal infections like meningitis, any craniofacial anomalies like a cleft palate, or head trauma.
Signs & Symptoms of Newborn Hearing Loss
Shakira also recommends you contact your baby's physician immediately if you notice your baby isn't meeting the following milestones: 0-3 Months Old:
At this age, your baby should startle or cry when he hears loud sounds. He should also calm down when he hears a familiar voice. And he should move or wake up if he hears a loud noise, or hears people speaking loudly, while he is sleeping. 3-6 Months Old:
At this age, your baby should coo, gurgle, and make a variety of sounds. She should also respond to interesting voices or sounds. She should like playing with rattles or other toys that make noise. 6-12 Months Old:
At this age, your baby will begin to imitate speech sounds such as "baba" or "mama." He should also understand what a few simple words mean, such as "no" or "bye-bye." He should look at familiar objects when they are named. 12-18 Months Old:
At this age, your baby should readily turn toward all sounds, loud and quiet. She should recognize her name and understand approximately 50 words. At this age, your baby will also go from saying two words to approximately ten words, and she will be able to follow simple directions, such as "find your ball."
What to Do If You Suspect Hearing Loss
I think it's important to note that only two to three
out of every 1,000 babies are born with hearing problems severe enough to detect in one or both ears. So, if your baby fails one hearing screening, don't worry too much yet (I know, I know, easier said than done). It's still very likely that your baby is struggling to hear because they have excess fluid in their ears from being inside the womb. However, even if hearing loss in newborns is pretty rare, it's extremely
important to make hearing tests a priority. Your newborn is already developing language, thinking, and social skills; and your baby's ability to hear and communicate is a crucial part of developing these important skills. If you feel like your baby is not hearing as well as expected, contact your baby's pediatrician immediately. During this crucial time of development, identifying hearing loss early can help your baby keep on track with their development. If your baby fails a hearing screening, you will be referred to an audiologist for more in-depth testing and treatment.
If your baby is diagnosed with hearing loss, an audiologist will help you with individualized language training, hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other treatment. And, if you identify hearing loss and begin treatment before your baby is six months old, he or she will most likely be able to meet developmental speech and language milestones.
Featured Image PC: @alexazurcher