Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why are we screening infants for hearing loss?
Infants begin developing speech and language from the moment they are born. Studies show that hearing loss occurs in approximately 2-4 out of 1000 babies. Without early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) programs, hearing loss is often not identified until 18 months to 3 years of age. If an infant has a hearing loss in one or both ears, early identification is crucial to preventing delayed speech and language development. Therefore, it is important that hearing loss be identified as early as possible so that intervention services can be provided.
2. How are infants screened? What is ABR? What is OAE?
There are two methods that may be used to screen a newborn's hearing: Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) and/or Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). These tests can be performed while the baby is asleep or quiet and does not require the infant's participation. Sounds (tones or clicks) are played through small earphones and responses to the sounds are automatically measured by electrodes or a probe microphone. Both tests are quick, painless, and non-invasive.
3. What happens when an infant does not pass a hearing screening?
Infants who do not pass the initial hearing screening in the hospital are referred for a rescreening which should be performed before one month of age. Infants who do not pass the rescreening are referred to a participating audiologists for a diagnostic hearing evaluation, which should be performed before three months of age. If a hearing loss is confirmed, infants and their families are referred to Babynet, South Carolina’s Early Intervention program, by six months of age.