Can Your Infant Hear You? Don't Wait to Find Out
You may have no trouble hearing your infant’s cries — even in the middle of the night. But can your baby hear you?
In the United States, babies have hearing screenings when they are first born, even before they leave the hospital.
These in-hospital hearing screenings are crucial, because while hearing problems are difficult to detect in the womb, they can be discovered soon after birth. These tests alert parents and doctors to any potential hearing problems.
Not something to ignore
When hearing loss in an infant is suspected, follow-up is key. But research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that half of the infants who failed their initial hearing screening didn’t go for follow-up testing to determine if there was potential hearing loss.
Many infants who fail the initial test will pass the next screening with flying colors. But if children who are born hearing impaired miss their follow-up testing, they won’t have their hearing loss discovered until much later.
Federally funded Early Hearing Detection and Intervention programs are in place in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. These programs can diagnose hearing loss in infants when they are only 3 months old, and can enroll children as young as 6 months old in early intervention programs, along with their families.
Hearing loss can delay development
The CDC’s research found that almost half of the infants who are diagnosed with a hearing impairment aren’t getting the necessary care when they are babies. This additional care is important to ensure that a child’s long-term development isn’t delayed due to hearing loss.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has identified a few of the major impacts on kids with untreated hearing loss:
- Delays in speech and communication skills.
- Delayed learning and lower academic achievement due to language deficits.
- Low self-esteem and social isolation because of communication difficulties.
Developmental delays go undetected
Thirteen percent of children between ages 3 and 17 have some sort of developmental delay or disability, CDC research reveals. But 80 percent of parents of young children had not filled out a screening questionnaire designed to detect developmental delays.
A pediatrician or family doctor should present this questionnaire to parents. But if they don’t, or it doesn’t get filled out, then it can take years to diagnose any developmental delays.
This puts children at a disadvantage, because the earlier any hearing loss or developmental delay is discovered, the sooner the child can receive help to get back on track.
Cost is no longer a barrier
Hearing screenings for newborns are covered as part of the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies to cover preventative care for children. Parents and doctors can work together to ensure that all children get the testing and follow-up they need to get the best start in life.