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Expert Shares Why Hearing Tests Become Important As Soon As The Baby Is Born

Sometimes it seems that from the very moment he is born, a newborn is put to the test. The reality is, it's fairly close to that - but for a good reason. We all want reassurance that our babies are well, and tests can give us the answers - usually quickly and accurately.

In the hours following birth, your baby will undergo several tests and examinations to ensure that he is healthy. The very first test is the Apgar, which is conducted at the one, and five-minute mark immediately following birth. This painless, non-invasive test measures skin colour, heart rate, reflex response, muscle tone and breathing, and is basically an assessment on whether or not the newborn needs a little extra help adjusting to life outside of the womb.

Other early tests include newborn screens, where blood samples are taken to test for metabolic diseases, endocrine diseases, sickle cell diseases, congenital heart diseases, Cystic Fibrosis and Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID).

But what about testing for hearing health?

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According to the Hearing Foundation of Canada, hearing health begins with screening for hearing loss at birth. Unfortunately, newborn hearing screening is not a universal offering and sometimes, the average age of children who are identified as having hearing loss is 2.5-3 years of age. By this time, it's extremely difficult for many of them to catch up to other children who don't have hearing issues - especially when it comes to speech, communication and social skills. More than 2,000 children are born with a hearing loss in Canada each year - one of the most common birth defects for which screening is available.

This push for universal hearing health screening at the newborn stage is echoed around the globe. Dr. Selvarani Moodley recently stressed the importance of testing your baby's hearing at birth when she appeared on popular radio station 702 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Hearing is the way we develop language," she said. "It is the basis for the development of socio-emotional skills, cognitive skills and then later literacy and academic skills."

Moodley is an audiologist and speech therapist at Hi Hopes, an organization dedicated to helping deaf and hard-of-hearing children grow and learn in a world they cannot hear. Moodley added that language does not have to be just speaking. It can also involve sign language, so if a child is identified as having hearing loss, they can still have access to language.

The CDC lists several signs for hearing loss in babies:

  • Does not startle at loud noises.
  • Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age.
  • Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age.
  • Turns head when he sees you but not if you only call out his name.
  • Seems to hear some sounds but not others.

If you think your child may have hearing loss, contact your health professional for an assessment as soon as possible.

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