February 16, 2001
Every day thirty-three babies nationwide, that's one to three infants per 1,000, are born with significant hearing loss. However, thanks to Paradise Valley Hospital and the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program, newborn babies can now be tested for hearing loss by certified staff soon after birth. San Diego join 28 states that offer this program, and Paradise Valley Hospital is the first in San Diego County to be certified for providing these tests.
The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program is technology that tests for hearing damage at birth. Previously, this screening may have been done in pediatric offices but may not have been completed at all. However, the medical community has been asking for hospitals to implement this program so that 100% of all newborns are tested at birth for early identification of hearing loss.
"When children with hearing loss aren't diagnosed until they are 3-year-old, they have lost critical speech and language development," said Nancy Neil, director of Maternal & Child Services at Paradise Valley Hospital. "Children identified at birth as deaf or hard-of-hearing and who receive early intervention can learn and progress a rate comparable to children with normal hearing, regardless of the severity of their hearing loss."
The new screening examines hearing loss with one of two tests. The first method, the Otoacoustic Emissions Test (OAE), checks the health of the cochlea, a part of the inner ear. The second method, the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), tests the function of the brainstem for hearing. All newborns receive the OAE test; those that test positive on the OAE are retested with the ABR test. This is completely non-invasive and can be done while the newborn is sleeping.