Can your baby hear?

Can your baby hear?

It is very difficult for parents to notice hearing loss in their baby, often the child is using their other senses to know what is going on around them. Only when the child does not develop speech do parents usually start to worry. I often see children in clinic at around 2 or 3 years of age with speech delay, these parents have similar stories of a family member that was late to start talking so they thought everything would be fine. Unfortunately 2 to 3 years without hearing is a lot for a child and it is now very hard for these children to catch up on this lost time and development.

Most children hear from birth, they learn to talk by imitating the sounds around them and the voices of their family. The first 2 or 3 years of life are critical for brain development, it is very important that a child has access to language very early in life. If a child is left too long with an undiagnosed hearing loss it will lead to delay in cognitive and language development in early childhood and to difficulties at school. Research suggests that children with hearing loss who get help early develop better language skills than those who do not. Early detection with newborn hearing screening is essentially in order to prevent language delays.

On average about 2 or 3 out of every 1000 babies are born with hearing loss, making it the one of the most common birth defects. The World Health Organisation recommends all babies have their hearing screened before they are a one month old, diagnosed by 3 months and receive intervention services by 6 months of age.

What is the screening test?

Two types of hearing screening tests are used: otoacoustic emissions (OAE) and auditory brainstem response (ABR). Each test takes around five minutes and will not cause your baby any pain. Many babies sleep through the screening.

What happens if my baby fails the test?

If your baby fails the hearing screening test, it does not necessarily mean that she has a hearing loss, but it does mean that more testing is required. It's important that your baby has a repeat screen within 1 or 2 weeks of the failed test. Babies sometimes fail the first test because they have ear wax in the ear canal, or fluid in the middle ear, or because they were too noisy during the test (crying). Many babies who fail the first screening go on to pass follow-up testing. Typically, if a baby does not pass the hearing screening tests, she will be referred to an audiologist to do more complete tests to find out whether your baby does have hearing loss.

If you are not sure if you baby has had their hearing tested ask your doctor or see an audiologist for a hearing test.

This article is written by an Audiologist, Dr Gavin Coad who is a member of the Malaysian Association of Speech- Language and Hearing ( MASH ) in support of the Better Hearing & Speech Month of May 2018.
MASH will be organising a free hearing screening throughout Malaysia during the month of May 2018.
Details can be obtained from


The Malaysian Association of Speech Language and Hearing

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