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Hearing Screening

Our sense of hearing is an amazingly complex system that is still not completely understood by medical science. Hearing impairment affects children in different ways. A large percentage of infant hearing loss is due to genetics or illness, and often there is no known reason. Late discovery of hearing loss also means language development delay. Children are more likely to perform below their grade level and/or drop out of school. However, we do know that children, who receive early diagnosis and early intervention, will develop better language and social abilities and more likely function at the level of their peers by the time they enter school. A simple screening procedure can identify a potential hearing loss and start the baby on a program to develop the best possible communication skills.

Newborn Hearing Screening-Universal Hearing Screening Programs

Hearing screening for all newborns before they leave the hospital is called universal hearing screening. Without early screening, however, most of the children won’t be diagnosed until between the ages two and three, and the child’s first three years are the most important for language development.

Until this moment the average age of diagnosis in Saudi Arabia is 2-3 years. At this stage, crucial time for early intervention has been lost.

For infants, the OAEs test is often used to screen for hearing loss in the newborn period. The infant sleeps while sounds are played to the ear through a small earphone. Newborn hearing screening also can be performed using Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) or a combination of both ABR and OAE measures. Either test can be conducted during the first 24 to 48 hours of life. If the infant does not pass this screening, re-testing should occur as soon as possible. Most infants who do not pass the screening will pass the follow-up test. However, if the follow-up test is not passed, the infant should be scheduled for a comprehensive audiological evaluation with a registered audiologist.

At JISH, all newborn babies are now screened for hearing impairment free of charge upto the age of 3.

What happens if an infant does not pass the screening?

Most babies pass the hearing screening; however, some babies will have a refer result and will need a hearing assessment. The hearing assessment is performed by an audiologist who is trained to test babies' hearing.

Even if the screening indicates normal hearing, it is important to remain aware of your child’s speech and language. Hearing can change overtime, affected by different illnesses. Furthermore, certain conditions do not produce immediate hearing loss. Rather, the hearing loss occurs later in the child's life. Thus, if an infant with any of the following indicators for progressive or delayed-onset hearing loss should receive audiologic monitoring every six months upto the age of 3 years:

  • Concern regarding hearing, speech, language, and/or developmental delay.
  • Family history of permanent childhood hearing loss.
  • Characteristics or other findings associated with a syndrome known to include a sensorineural and/or conductive hearing loss, syndrome associated with progressive
  • hearing loss or neurodeginerative disorders
  • Postnatal infections associated with sensorineural hearing loss including bacterial meningitis.
  • In utero infections such as cytomegalovirus, herpes, rubella, syphilis, and toxoplasmosis.

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