Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program
Why is my baby’s hearing screened at birth?
Birth hospitals are required by law (Connecticut General Statutes, Section 19a-59) to screen every newborn for certain harmful disorders or diseases that aren't otherwise apparent at birth, including a newborn’s ability to hear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing loss is one of the most commonly occurring conditions in newborns, and most babies with a hearing loss show no signs or symptoms. This is why it’s so important for newborns to have their hearing screened.
The law requiring newborns to have their hearing screened at birth is referred to as “universal newborn hearing screening”, and should be performed before the newborn leaves the birth hospital. This has been a law in Connecticut since 2000. Babies that are born at home should also receive a newborn hearing screening, preferably by 1 month of age.
Click here for the Listen Up! A Parent Guide to Newborn Hearing Screening Brochure. Or click here for the Brochure in Spanish.
Why is universal newborn hearing screening important?
The first three years of life are a critical time period during which infants can acquire language; therefore, it is important to identify hearing loss as early as possible because babies start learning how to use sounds as soon as they are born. Listening in the first months of life prepares babies to speak. These early steps are building blocks for communication because hearing and learning language are closely tied together.
Ideally, identifying an infant with a hearing loss should be completed by three months of age and hearing services administered by six months of age.
How is my newborn’s hearing tested?
Birth hospitals use either an OAE (otoacoustic emissions) or ABR (auditory brainstem response) to screen for hearing loss. But don’t let the names scare you. Both tests are completely painless. In fact, the tests are usually done when your baby is sleeping or in a quiet state.
What if I don’t want my baby’s hearing tested?
Connecticut law requires all infants born in Connecticut to be screened for hearing loss. However, parents may refuse the universal newborn hearing screening when it conflicts with their religious tenets and practice.
Parents who do not want the newborn hearing screening will be advised of the risks associated with not getting their newborn screened and must sign a waiver at the birth hospital.
How do I know if my baby passed the newborn hearing screening?
You should get the results of your baby’s newborn hearing screening right away or before you leave the birth hospital. Each ear is tested individually. If your child passes the newborn hearing screening, he or she will not need any additional testing. However, hearing loss can occur at any age, so it is important to have regular hearing checks, especially if the child has any risk factors for hearing loss. For more tips on monitoring your child’s hearing, speech, and behavioral development click on Risk Factors.
What if my baby does not pass the newborn hearing screening?
If your baby does not pass the newborn hearing screening, either in one ear or both ears, a “diagnostic hearing evaluation” with a pediatric audiologist should be scheduled as soon as medically able. A pediatric audiologist is a licensed hearing specialist that can diagnosis a hearing loss specific to newborns and children. A diagnostic hearing evaluation, a much more comprehensive series of tests, is the only way to determine if your baby has a hearing loss.
Additionally, if your child didn’t pass the newborn hearing screening, the birth hospital will also screen your baby for cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Click Your Baby Needs Another Hearing Test/About Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Testing Brochure for more information on diagnostic hearing evaluations and CMV testing. Or click here for the Brochure in Spanish.
What is Cytomegalovirus (CMV)?
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that infects people of all ages with little to no harmful effects. However, a mother can pass CMV along to her unborn baby. In these instances CMV can cause harmful effects including hearing loss. Additionally, CMV can also cause what is called “delayed” or “late onset” hearing loss, meaning that the child may pass the newborn hearing screening at birth, but months or years later develop a loss due to CMV. It is essential that children born with CMV have regularly scheduled pediatric audiology check-ups.
CMV is considered the leading cause of sensorineural hearing loss in children at birth.
If my baby does not pass the newborn hearing screening, does that mean they are deaf or hard of hearing?
Not necessarily. The newborn hearing screening will only identify babies who would benefit from additional testing. There are a number of reasons why your baby may not have passed the newborn hearing screening. That is why it is important to schedule an appointment with a pediatric audiologist, a licensed specialist that can diagnosis a hearing loss in newborns and children. The only way to know for sure if your baby has a hearing loss is by being tested by a pediatric audiologist.
Even if you think your child can hear, don’t wait to get your baby tested.
When does my baby need an appointment with a pediatric audiologist?
If you have been told that your child did not pass the newborn hearing screening, you should schedule a diagnostic evaluation with a pediatric audiologist, preferably before three months of age. A pediatric audiologist is someone who specializes in working with babies.
Your birth hospital or baby’s pediatrician can help you schedule an appointment with a pediatric audiologist, or you can contact an audiology center on your own. Click here for Connecticut Infant Diagnostic Testing Locations or search for a pediatric audiology facility at http://ehdipals.org.
The pediatric audiologist will let you know if your baby has a hearing loss or not.
My child was diagnosed with a hearing loss. What now?
If your baby is diagnosed with a hearing loss, it is important to begin developmental and medical related services right away, ideally before six months of age. In Connecticut, the Birth to Three program provides early intervention services and will work with your family to develop a plan of services.
You, your baby’s doctor, or the audiologist can refer your child to Birth to Three by either:
- Calling Child Development Infoline at 1-800-505-7000 (or dial 2-1-1);
- Submitting a referral on-line at www.birth23.org or cdi.211ct.org; or
- Faxing a referral to 860-571-6853.
Children begin learning speech and language from birth. Research shows that children who are deaf or hard of hearing who get early intervention services may develop better language skills than those who don’t.
What other medical services and tests will my baby need?
If your baby does have a hearing loss, you should consider scheduling an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor and an Ophthalmologist (eye) doctor. You might also want to consider genetic testing.
What other resources and supports are available for my family?
Many parents with a newly identified deaf or hard of hearing baby have little or no exposure to children or adults with hearing loss. There is help available:
CT Family Support Network – committed to helping families of individuals with disabilities and special health care needs, and the professionals who work with them, find information, resources and supports to improve their lives. Go to www.ctfsn.org.
CT Hands & Voices – non-biased support for families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Go to www.cthandsandvoices.org.
Click on Resources & Forms for other resources related to your child’s health and development.