What Happens Next If Your Baby Fails Their Initial Newborn Hearing Test

Before you even leave the hospital with your baby, you can have your baby's hearing checked. Simple tests have been developed that allow your doctor to check your newborn's hearing. This test was developed in order to diagnose hearing issues in newborns and help them get the assistance they need as soon as possible.

How The Initial Hearing Test Works

Newborn hearing tests are designed to be very easy on your child. Most hospitals give the otoacoustic emissions or OAE test to newborns. The OAE essentially consists of the doctor inserting a mini-microphone and mini-earphone in your child's ears. This equipment is very small and should not cause your child any distress.

The earphone is used to release a sound into your baby's ear. The microphone measures if this sound bounces off of your baby's ear canal.

If the sound bounces back, than your baby's hearing is fine. If the sound does not bounce back, than your baby may have hearing issues.

Second Hearing Test

If your child does not pass the OAE hearing screening, most hospitals will then give your child a different newborn hearing test to verify their initial results. The most common secondary newborn screening test is the auditory brainstem response or ABR test.

Once again, this test is designed to be as non-invasive and as easy on your child as possible. Little earphones are once again placed inside your child's ears. Then, instead of inserting a microphone into your child's ears, very small electrodes are gently attached to your child's hearing nerve on their head.

When a sound is played into your child's ear via the earphones, the electrodes measure how your child's brain responds to the sound. These measurements are used to determine if your child has any hearing loss.

Medical issues, as well as baby issues like crying, can easily mess up the results of newborn screening tests. Most hospitals always run a second test if the first test generated negative results in order to verify that the original findings were accurate.

Next Steps

If your child does not pass both tests, that still does not mean that they have permanent hearing loss. Certain medical conditions, such as fluid in your child's ear or vernix in your child's ear canal, can cause your newborn to fail their initial screenings. If your child has one of these conditions, your doctor will discuss next steps with you to help fix the situation.

After ruling out medical conditions, your doctor will request that you come back for further screening in six to eight weeks. Your child will undergo the newborn hearing screening again. Most babies who do not pass their initial screening end up passing a followup screening. If your child does not pass their followup screening, your doctor will refer you to an audiologist who can help you further understand the state of your child's hearing and how you can help them.