Newborn Hearing Screening

     BINGHAMTON, NY - Can your baby hear you? If your baby is born in a hospital in Broome County, you don't have to wonder. All New York babies now have their hearing checked as part of the Newborn Screening Program of the New York State Department of Health.

A baby's hearing may be checked before the mother leaves the hospital, or the parents will be told how to have their baby's hearing screened close to their home, said Jan Chytilo, Director of Health Education for the Broome County Health Department. Parents whose babies are not born in a hospital should ask their doctor or clinic how to have their baby's hearing checked.

"Every baby's hearing should be checked as soon after birth as possible," said Ms. Chytilo. "If your baby has a hearing loss, the sooner you know it, the better. For every 1,000 babies, about two to four will have a serious hearing loss."

Hearing is very important. Babies need to hear sounds to learn how to talk and learn about the world. Hearing is most important in the early months to prevent possible problems with language or schoolwork later on.

Trained staff will check the baby's hearing. The screening only takes a short time and the baby may sleep while it is done. To check a baby's hearing, either a tiny microphone may be placed in the baby's ear, or the baby may wear special earphones and have tiny pads placed on his or her head. Then, soft sounds are played, and the baby's hearing is measured.

After the screening, parents will be given a brochure telling them what their baby's screening means. One screening is not always enough. A baby may need a second screening to be sure he or she hears. The baby's movements, noise in the room, or fluid in the ear after birth may lead to false results. If a baby needs to be checked again, parents will be told how to have this done.

Ms. Chytilo noted that, sometimes, the cause of hearing loss is unknown. Other times it is caused by deafness, which runs in families, ear infections, meningitis, or other serious infections. Parents who have questions or concerns should talk to their baby's doctor or clinic.

Most babies will "pass" the hearing screening. This means that the baby is hearing at the time of the screening. Even if a baby "passes" the screening, it is still important to check the baby's hearing often. Parents with concerns about their child's hearing, at any age, should call their baby's doctor or clinic.

A baby who has a hearing loss, or may have a hearing loss, may need more help. According to Ms. Chytilo, infants, toddlers with special needs, and their families can get help from the New York State Health Department's Early Intervention Program (EIP). EIP offers hearing screening and testing and support for parents, their babies and their families.

To learn more about newborn hearing screening or the Early Intervention Program, call the Growing Up Healthy Hotline at 1.800.522.5006. (Residents of New York City should call 1.800.577.2229.) Or, visit the New York State Health Department's web site (http://www.health.state.ny.us). Click on Information for Consumers. Then, choose Early Intervention from the list of topics.