Screening an Infant’s Hearing

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Abnormal hearing is the most common out of the multitude of congenital problems for which babies can be tested. Because there are two to four babies per 1,000 who enter this world with a significant hearing impairment, this is a condition which is 20 times more frequent than phenylketonuria, a metabolic problem for which new-borns are routinely screened. Usually ranging from 14 months to 2 1/2 years are the estimates for the average age at which a serious hearing impairment is diagnosed.

You can say that this sounds early enough but no. What was mentioned by the director of the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland was that even though babies were only a few weeks old, their brains were already developing the capacity for language and this is something that people take for granted. Babies can lose a great opportunity to learn language if they receive no language input during a critical window of time, in this case a time that stretches back to birth. Allowing for a good chance of communicating normally, either in sign or spoken language by the time he or she begins school, is early detection but if the situation is that which involves late detection and intervention then a long, dreary game of catching up ahead is what follows. Although it will definitely be more challenging, there is still hope even if a child's problem is discovered late a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder and lead author of the studies said. This is precisely why hearing advocates have been pressing for across the board screening for hearing problems in new-borns.

As mentioned by the director of government relations for the American Speech Language Hearing Association, a professional group that advocates early screening, given the baby boom let surge that the US is experiencing right now infant screening is very important. There are several states today that have enacted legislation for universal new-born screening programs. It is meant to test the hearing of an adult. Audiologists simply put people in a booth and have them press buttons and parrot back phrases in response to the sounds they hear. This is not the case when the hearing of a baby is being tested.

In this case, since there is an odd property of the ears that has been discovered and appreciated only in the past few decades, a baby's ears can do the talking. Aside from receiving sounds, the ears can also emit sounds. In response to noises, the source of these sounds which are the outer hair cells in our ears actually cause our ability to hear to be sharpened. Taking this into consideration, the movements cause the eardrum to vibrate and this sends noises back out into the world.

The ears tend to make low level noises when exposed to sound but these are not audible to humans. When it comes to these, they are loud enough for instruments to detect. Dealing with sounds that are not generated is actually the essence of screening for hearing problems in new-borns. It only takes technicians a few minutes to complete the procedure wherein a click of sound is sent into a baby's ear and then a little microphone detects any sound coming out. It is detecting anything from mild to profound hearing loss that is possible with this test.

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