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Hearing screening of infants

Hearing screening of infants

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from hearing loss, a hearing test should be considered. The test is painless and involves either the use of soft, earphone-like probes that are placed in the ears or the use of electrodes placed on the infant's scalp. However, before your child undergoes such a test, your family doctor may undertake other simpler tests first.

Up to 3 per cent of all infants have reduced hearing at birth, but in many children the hearing loss is not identified until they reach the age of two. An early diagnosis of a hearing impairment can be very important for the child and will give the parents an early opportunity to learn how to raise the hearing impaired child.

It is important to identify a hearing impairment as early as possible, because the ability to communicate primarily develops between birth and 36 months of age. The earlier a hearing-impaired child is diagnosed, fitted with a hearing aid and given special training, the better the child will manage as he or she grows up.

If you think that your infant may be suffering from hearing impairment, you should not hesitate to ask your family doctor to conduct a simple hearing test or perhaps a hearing screening.

The hearing screening combines the technology of two existing hearing tests - an ABR (auditory brainstem response) test and the OAE (otoacoustic emissions) test. The ABR records brain waves in response to sound waves in the child's ear. The OAE records the faint vibrations that come from a baby's ear - specifically from certain hair cells in the cochlea inside the ear - in response to sounds.

In the combination test, three electrodes are fastened on the nape of the infant's neck and forehead, and a ground electrode is placed on the shoulder. The entire test takes 15 minutes to perform.

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