Newborn Hearing Screening

When a baby is born, the last thing a parent wants to think about is what illness or impairment their baby might have. However, early detection of any illness is always the key to getting the timely treatment a baby needs. A congenital hearing loss is one such complication that needs immediate attention. This is why newborn hearing screening is highly recommended to rule out this possibility.

A congenital hearing loss is more common than you may think. Approximately three out of every thousand babies are born with a hearing impairment.

In Sub Saharan Africa alone, over 718 000 babies are born with permanent disabling hearing loss every year.

Any baby can be born with a hearing impairment, even without a family history of hearing disability. In fact, 95% of babies born with hearing impairment are born to parents with functioning hearing.

A hearing screening is the only definite way of knowing if a baby has a hearing impairment. A baby’s behavioral cues are often inconclusive. Babies with hearing impairments may still seem to react to sounds around them when they are actually just reacting to visual stimuli or are naturally fidgety. This is why many hearing impairments in babies and even toddlers often go undiagnosed for a long time.

Why Do We Need to Screen for Hearing Impairments?

Language and speech development in a child starts far beyond the point when a child actually begins to speak. The words and sounds that a baby hears around them everyday form part of their normal brain and language development.

Undetected hearing impairment in an infant can lead to delayed language and speech development. This could have further long-term implications on their social, academic and emotional development.

If the hearing test should reveal that a baby does have any form of hearing impairment, it is often possible to address these timeously enough so that they do not cause further long-term implications.

What does a Newborn Hearing Screening Test Entail?

The newborn hearing screening test is harmless. It is a non-invasive, quick and simple procedure performed in a few minutes, by a qualified audiologist. It does not require any form of behavioral response from a baby. It can even be performed while a baby is sleeping or being fed.

The standard recommendation for performing the test is within the first month after birth. The test can even be performed on new-born babies within 12 hours of birth. The sooner the test is performed, the better!

The two main hearing screening tests are the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) and the Oto-Acoustic Emissions (OAE). We at Tami Mehl Audiology use the Oto-Acoustic Emissions (OAE) method.

The Oto-Acoustic Emissions (OAE) test does not require any behavioral responses from a child. This test places a miniature microphone as well as miniature earphone into a baby’s ear to-test the baby’s physical response to sounds played, within the ear. If the baby’s hearing apparatus is functioning as it should, there will be an echo reflected within the ear canal, which will be detected and measured by the microphone.

During the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) electrodes are strategically and safely placed on a baby’s head to measure brain responses to various sounds played into the baby’s ear.

The Verdict:

The results will be one of two verdicts.

  1. Either a Pass, which means the baby’s hearing is fully functioning at the moment.
  2. The other is a Refer, in which further testing may be required in one or both ears, to confirm any impairment and to diagnose the cause and extent of the impairment. From here, a specialist will determine further treatment.

Treating Hearing Loss in Infants

There is a problem with my baby’s hearing, what now?

Treatment of hearing loss will depend on the cause. Should a baby have a hearing impairment, a specialist will guide parents through the treatment options and the baby’s subsequent needs, accordingly.

There are times the impairment can be completely reversed with various surgeries and/or the use of various medications to correct the cause of the impairment.

Other times, the hearing impairment can be managed with the use of amplification devices such as hearing aids.

To treat the effects of long-term hearing impairment, speech and various language therapies (including sign language) may be required.

Tami Mehl Audiology can Help

The long-term effects of infant hearing loss scary for any parent or caregiver to have to think about.

Here at Tami Mehl Audiology, we offer safe and efficient newborn hearing screenings to set your mind at ease. We are also able to offer counseling, support and various courses of treatment, should we detect hearing impairment in your child. Contact us today to find out more.


I was seen by Tami Mehl at my ripe old age of 85. It is an absolute pleasure to have dealt with someone who is so respectful and caring of us old folks. With her patience and understanding, she walked me through the hearing tests and sorted out the best hearing aids for my lifestyle. I would certainly recommend Tami to all of my friends. I cannot express my gratitude in how the hearing aids have enhanced my lifestyle.

Clive Black