Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

Ohio law requires all newborns to have a hearing screening before they are discharged from their birth hospital. A hearing screening is a way to assess a baby’s “risk” for hearing loss. It is important to check hearing, as hearing loss is the No. 1 birth defect.

How is the screening done?

Two simple tests can be done to screen your baby’s hearing:

  • ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response)
    • At Nationwide Children’s, we only screen using ABR, as it is the most recommended test for hearing loss. In well baby hospitals, the two-step OAE screening process is used due to a large population of babies with no risk factors for hearing loss.
  • OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions)

What do the newborn hearing results mean?

Pass: This means hearing loss was not found at birth. A Pass result does not rule out future hearing problems. Your child’s hearing will be checked as he or she continues to grow. The person administering the hearing screening will notify you if any risk factors associated with progressive hearing loss are present in your baby’s medical history and make further recommendations.

Non-Pass/Refer: This means that further testing is needed to confirm your child’s hearing ability. If your baby gets a Non-Pass/Refer result, please do not be alarmed. Because this is only a screening, a non-pass/refer result means that more detailed information is needed to determine your baby’s hearing status.

If my newborn fails the screening in the hospital, what will be done?

The hospital where your baby is born should provide you with a list of audiologists to schedule a diagnostic hearing evaluation at 4 weeks old. This is simply a more detailed test that can help determine if your baby has hearing loss.

It is important to schedule the hearing evaluation at 4 weeks old with an audiologist. Hearing loss that is not detected can have a major impact on your child.

Why is it important to have my child’s hearing tested at birth?

Babies use their hearing to develop speech and language skills. Hearing loss that is not detected can have a major impact on a child. It can affect the child’s language development. Speech and language delays can further impact a child’s academic, social and emotional development. Research has proven that the earlier a baby’s hearing loss is found, the more successful their outcomes will be in the long run.

Why is it important to have your child’s hearing tested by a pediatric audiologist?

Pediatric audiologists are specially trained clinicians who have expertise in working with children, specifically identifying hearing loss in children. A pediatric audiologist will be able to decide which tests are important to do, and complete them with accuracy and efficiency. If a hearing loss is identified, the pediatric audiologist will give you information about hearing loss, communication options and resources.

How do I schedule an UNHS?

All babies should receive a newborn screening before discharge from their birth hospital. If your child is transferred to another hospital for medical reasons, that hospital should also be equipped to complete the screening before your child is discharged. The state of Ohio tracks all babies born within the state and will follow-up with families if a newborn hearing screening is missed.

If your baby received a non-pass/refer result following their newborn hearing screening, the next step is to schedule a diagnostic testing appointment. This would be scheduled as an ABR is your infant is 4 weeks to 5 months old. If your baby is 6 months or older, this would be scheduled as a hearing evaluation. It is important to note that follow-up as soon as possible will provide the best results for your newborn. The goal is for babies to have their diagnostic testing done between 4-8 weeks of life.

Universal Newborn Hearing Screening
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