It’s one of the first tests a newborn baby gets — the newborn hearing screening. According to the New York Times, 97 percent of babies born in the U.S. get the screening, but nearly half of those who fail it don’t get a follow-up.
In a perfect world, the system is supposed to work like this: Everyone gets screened by one month, babies who fail that screening get a follow-up to diagnose the problem by three months, which means that babies with hearing issues are in treatment by six months. Early intervention can help to prevent or mitigate some of the speech and language issues associated with hearing loss.
A new study published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics found that hearing loss in only one ear is associated with poorer speech and language development in kids, and even mild hearing loss can affect a child’s performance in school. From the New York Times:
“Hearing loss has often been thought of as the silent disability,” said Dr. Judith E. C. Lieu, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at Washington University in St. Louis. It may be hard to spot even in older children, she went on: “It may look like not paying attention; they talk while the teacher is talking.”
So what is the message for parents? Get the newborn screening even if your baby isn’t born in a hospital, push your pediatrician for a follow-up if it turns up issues, and get your baby into therapy by six months if there’s hearing loss. But since hearing loss can occur anytime after birth, it’s also important to be on the look out for changes in your child’s development.
According to KidsHealth.org, here are some milestones your baby should reach during the first year:
Most newborn infants startle or “jump” to sudden loud noises.
By 3 months, a baby usually recognizes a parent’s voice.
By 6 months, an infant can usually turn his or her eyes or head toward a sound.
By 12 months, a child can usually imitate some sounds and produce a few words, such as “Mama” or “bye-bye.”
And these are signs of hearing loss in older children:
limited, poor, or no speech
often increases the volume on the TV
fails to respond to conversation-level speech or answers inappropriately to speech
Get more information at Babyhearing.org.
Photo: potaufeu, Flickr