Universal Newborn Hearing Screening checks if a newborn baby might have hearing loss. This screening happens right after birth, before leaving the hospital. All states in the U.S. conduct newborn hearing screening, and most require it. It is also conducted in many other countries.
When a baby fails the screening tests, he or she is referred for more detailed, diagnostic hearing testing. If a hearing loss is found,
hearing aids or cochlear implants may be recommended and support services are provided to help families promote the baby’s early language development. These services help babies learn to listen, speak, and/or learn to communicate visually.
It is important to identify hearing loss as early as possible because babies start learning language as soon as they are born. Listening in the first months of life prepares babies to speak. Watching others communicate helps babies learn language. These early steps are building blocks for communication.
Babies learn language by listening and watching their families communicate around them. Imagine that a baby has a hearing loss, but no one knows about it. This can lead to slow development of speech and language, leading to later challenges in school.
Hospitals regularly screen newborn babies for a number of conditions, such as genetic disorders. Hearing loss is more common than any other problems or conditions that are screened for at birth. About
one to three babies out of every
1,000 will be born with a
permanent hearing loss.