Everything you need to know about your baby's hearing, explained

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Infants who have hearing loss need the correct support, care and early intervention services to encourage healthy development.
Infants who have hearing loss need the correct support, care and early intervention services to encourage healthy development.

Moms and dads around the world want only the best for their little ones

When it comes to hearing and hearing loss, there are many concerns and uncertainties.  

According to the NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders), approximately 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born with a significant hearing loss. 

In South Africa, the number increases to between 3-6 in every 1000 babies.

READ | Children with hearing problems: why acting early can make all the difference

How soon must I have my baby’s hearing tested?

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the goal is for all babies to have a newborn hearing screening by one month of age, preferably before they go home from the hospital. 

Hearing loss needs to be identified by 3 months of age.  If a hearing loss is determined, the child needs to be enrolled in early intervention or treatment by the age of 6 months.  There is no time to waste with hearing loss in children.

What will happen if a baby’s hearing loss is unidentified?

A hearing loss impacts negatively on the baby's communication and language skills.  Infants who have hearing loss need the correct support, care and early intervention services to encourage healthy development.  

Longer-term, a missed hearing loss can also impact the child's academic achievement and social-emotional development.

ALSO READ | 'Deaf education is failing our deaf children': Mom of 3 deaf children shares the difficult path to diagnosis

What type of test is performed and where can I have it done?

Most hospitals have Audiologists visiting the hospital to perform hearing tests.  In South Africa, hearing screening is mostly performed by means of Oto-Acoustic-Emissions (OAE’s). 

A tiny soft-tipped earpiece is placed just inside the baby's ear canal.  Sounds are played and when a normal ear receives sound, the inner part, known as the cochlea, produces an echo which is measured by the microphone.  The outer ear and middle ear need to be intact for a cochlear response.

These tests are completely painless and only take a few minutes. The hearing screening test will usually be done while your baby is asleep or settled. You can stay with your baby while the screening test is done.

My baby is responding to noise, is the test still necessary?   

Babies may respond to noise by startling or turning their heads toward the sound, for example, but this doesn't necessarily mean they can hear all the sounds around them.  

Babies who have a hearing loss may hear some sounds, but still not enough to understand spoken language – depending on the severity of the hearing loss.


Welcome to the world, my darling child

Eyes so inquisitive, sometimes wild

Are you listening to the soothing of my voice?

Do you get startled by a very loud noise?

Your cooing sounds are music to my ears

Babbling, imitating, your first words driving me to tears

Using short phrases, asking for your favourite toy,

Reaching your milestones, each one celebrated with joy!

One day I’ll see you chuckle and chat with your peers,

All because when you were a baby, I tested your ears.


Submitted to Parent24 by Lynette Snyman Audiology.

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