One to three of every 1,000 newborns in the United States are born with hearing loss.

Early identification provides a unique opportunity for infants to receive early intervention, which can dramatically increase their quality of life. Your newborn will have a hearing screening before going home from the hospital. Learn more about the screening and what steps you should take if your baby does not pass the test.

Q: Why is newborn hearing screening so important?

A: Newborn hearing screening and diagnosis help ensure all babies who are d/Deaf* or hard of hearing are identified as soon as possible. Early intervention services can make a big difference in their communication and language development. Without early intervention, unidentified hearing loss can lead to difficulties with behavior, poor academic achievement and poor language development.

Q: What if my baby fails the newborn hearing screening?

A: If your newborn fails the hearing screening, it does not always mean that your baby’s hearing is impaired. There are multiple reasons why a baby might fail the test, including fluid movement in the ear, too much noise in the room, or if the baby is crying. However, if your newborn does fail the newborn screening, it is extremely important to have a follow-up diagnostic test performed by an audiologist who is experienced in working with infants.

Q: How does Kennedy Krieger test newborns who have failed their newborn hearing screening?

Our clinic offers the state-of-the-art auditory brainstem response (ABR) test, designed specifically for diagnostic screening of newborns who have failed the newborn hearing screening. The ABR test is also used for older children if there is a suspicion of hearing loss that cannot be confirmed through more conventional hearing tests. The test is safe and does not hurt. In fact, when performed on children younger than 6 months old, the test is usually done while the baby is sleeping. Older babies and children may require a mild sedation to complete the test.

Q: How does the ABR test work?

The test uses a special computer to measure the way a baby’s hearing nerve responds to different sounds. Three to four small sensors are placed on the baby’s head and are connected to a computer. Small earphones are placed in the baby’s ears once the baby is asleep. Sounds are delivered through the earphones, and the sensors measure how the baby’s hearing nerve responds to them. The audiologist will analyze the baby’s responses to determine the level at which the baby is hearing sounds.

Q: How is hearing loss treated in babies?

If a baby is diagnosed as d/Deaf or hard of hearing, there are several options for intervention, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and other treatments. At Kennedy Krieger, we can help you decide which intervention option, or combination of options, is best for your child and family.

In addition to using hearing devices, your child may learn American Sign Language and/or use assistive listening devices.

Q. How soon after failing the newborn hearing screening should my baby get a diagnostic test?

A. If your baby fails the newborn hearing screening, additional testing should be done as soon as possible, before your baby is 3 months old. Kennedy Krieger has priority appointments available for babies who have failed the newborn hearing screening. Call 443-923-9400 to make an appointment for a hearing evaluation.

*Kennedy Krieger Institute recognizes that the word “deaf” can refer to both a condition and a culture. Kennedy Krieger spells the word as “d/Deaf” to be inclusive of both hearing status and cultural identity.