Hearing Health Foundation

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After the Newborn Hearing Screening

A newborn hearing screening is the first step. If the screening reveals a baby may have a hearing loss, parents should take a deep breath. Parents often feel overwhelmed, scared, and have many, many questions. Hearing loss is a loss. It’s not uncommon that to grieve after receiving a diagnosis. Take some time to come to terms with the news, and know that there are professionals ready to help and there are many resources at your disposal. There are also countless families who have gone through this same experience and have found success.

After a child has received a diagnosis of hearing loss, the next step is to schedule an appointment for a follow-up examination with an audiologist. The audiologist will attempt to identify the cause and kind of hearing loss and may recommend further medical attention, such as a visit to the otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist, or ENT).

Audiologists, ENTs, pediatricians, and other professionals will direct parents to intervention services to help overcome barriers to communication.

If the follow-up test does not show there is a hearing loss, it is still important to check a child’s hearing periodically. Hearing loss can occur at any time of life. Some forms of hearing loss do not appear until a child is a toddler or enters school, or even later. In addition, illness, ear infections, head injury, certain medications and exposure to loud noise are all potential causes of hearing loss.

Causes, Risk Factors, and Characteristics

  • Genetics are responsible for 50%-60% of children with hearing loss.
    • About 20% of babies with genetic hearing loss have a “syndrome” (for example, Down syndrome or Usher syndrome).
  • Maternal Infections during pregnancy, environmental causes, and complications after birth are responsible for almost 30% of babies with hearing loss.
  • Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection during pregnancy is a preventable risk factor for hearing loss among children.
    • 14% of babies exposed to CMV during pregnancy develop sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) of some type.
    • About 3-5% of those exposed to CMV during pregnancy develop bilateral moderate-to-profound SNHL.
  • Children born weighing less than 2,500 grams (about 5 1/2 pounds) have a 1 in 4 chance of developing hearing loss.
  • 30-40% of children with hearing loss have co-occurring conditions.
    • The most common developmental disability is intellectual disability (23%), followed by cerebral palsy (10%), autism spectrum disorder (7%), and/or vision impairment (5%).

Sources: NIDCD, CDC