Newborn Hearing Screening

All MaineHealth hospitals will offer to perform a hearing screening on newborns. The screening is safe, simple and painless. It only takes a couple of minutes. It is important to have the screening done so, if your baby does have hearing issues, problems can be treated early.

What is an infant hearing screening?

The most common type of infant hearing test is called optoacoustic emissions (OAE). The person doing the screening will put a tiny earphone and microphone in the baby’s ear and play some sounds. The equipment will measure how the baby’s ear responds.

If the OAE test shows that there might be an issue, the provider will do a second test called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). For this test, electrodes are put on the baby’s head to measure brain responses. These electrodes will not harm your baby and look very similar to Band-Aids. It’s common for a baby to sleep through these tests.

What if my baby has hearing loss?

There can be many reasons for hearing loss in a baby, ranging from repeated ear infections to congenital problems, meaning there was hearing loss at birth. If these screenings show that your baby has hearing issues, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) or an audiologist (provider who specializes in hearing), who will do further tests and propose treatments.

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