Babies learn from the time they are born by listening and interacting with the sounds and voices that surround them. The ability to hear is an important sense for brain development and helps newborn babies to learn beginning speech and communication skills. If a baby is born with hearing loss, sounds and voices are not heard, delaying language development and future literacy.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that all newborns have their hearing screened within their first month (Canadian Pediatric Society). In Ontario, there is a fully funded province-wide infant hearing program in place. Babies are screened at birth, often before leaving the hospital. For women who have had a home birth, a screening date is organized through their midwives’ community centre. If a hearing screen was not completed at the time of your baby’s birth, speak to your health care provider or contact a local audiologist.
How does the hearing test work?
A screening technician uses a small microphone to send soft sounds into the baby’s ear. The echo that comes back from these sounds is detected by a computer that can tell whether your baby has heard the sound. This hearing screen can identify a possible hearing loss and a need for further testing. The hearing screen is quick, easy, painless, and is often completed while babies sleep.
What are some signs of hearing loss in a baby?
Parents and caregivers are often the first to notice hearing loss when their baby does not react to their voices or respond with cooing sounds. These are some of the communication milestones that will help you look for early signs of hearing loss in your baby.
- At 3-4 months of age, baby startles or reacts to loud noises around the house and outdoors such as a phone ringing, a dog barking, or an emergency vehicle siren
- Around 6 months of age, baby begins to babble and imitate sounds
- At 9 months, baby turns towards soft spoken words
- By 12 months of age, baby says any single words such as “ba-ba”, “da-da”, or “ma-ma”
Why is the hearing screen important?
Hearing loss is a common condition present at birth in Canada. Approximately 4 babies in 1000 experience serious hearing loss. (Ministry of Child and Youth Services)
Early detection of hearing loss is important as the first months of life are critical for developing the speech and language areas of the brain. Children with hearing impairment who are diagnosed early receive appropriate help and are able to develop accordingly to their age. Newborn babies may be fitted with hearing aids and more recently cochlear implants are becoming a possibility for younger children.
If a newborn hearing screen wasn’t completed at the time of your baby’s birth, ask your health care provider or contact an audiologist to book a screening. You do not need a referral to book a hearing screen for your baby or yourself.
For more information about the universal infant hearing program, and the programs and services available in the Thunder Bay District please visit the links listed below.
For Further Information
Call the Family Health Program: (807) 625-5900
or toll-free 1-888-294-6630