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Newborn Screening
How Does Newborn Hearing Screening Testing Work?
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Two different types of hearing screening tests are used to screen hearing in babies. Both of these tests are safe and comfortable.

Otoacoustic Emissions
One of the tests is called otoacoustic emissions or OAEs. For this test, a miniature earphone and microphone are placed in the ear, sounds are played and a response is measured. If a baby hears normally, an echo is reflected back into the ear canal and is measured by the microphone. When a baby has a hearing loss, no echo can be measured on the OAE test.

Auditory Brainstem Response
abrThe second test is called the auditory brainstem response or ABR. For this test, sounds are played to the baby's ears. Band-aid like electrodes are placed on the baby's head to detect responses. This test measures how the hearing nerve responds to sounds and can identify babies who have a hearing loss.

The two tests can be used separately or together. In some hospitals, babies are first screened using OAEs. Babies who do not pass on the first OAE test can be given a second test using the ABR.

Both tests are reliable. Hospitals choose the type of screening tests that they use based on costs, personnel and the number of babies born.

View a Video of Newborn Hearing Testing is pleased to provide a short video presentation on the importance of newborn hearing screening and the testing methods used. The video is provided in both English and Spanish and is courtesy of the National Center for Hearing Assessment & Management (NCHAM). To learn more about NCHAM, visit

To view a video that demonstrates the two test methods, click below.

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