Newborn Hearing Testing

Newborn hearing screening is the standard of care in hospitals nationwide. The primary purpose of newborn hearing screening is to identify newborns who are likely to have hearing loss and who require further evaluation. A secondary objective is to identify newborns with medical conditions that can cause late-onset hearing loss and to establish a plan for continued monitoring of their hearing status (Joint Committee on Infant Hearing [JCIH], 2007).

When babies do not pass newborn hearing screenings in Kalamazoo County, most are referred to our clinic for an Auditory Brainstem Response test. An ABR test measures auditory nerve reactions in response to sounds. ABR is not a hearing test itself, but it can be used to detect hearing loss in infants and very young children. ABR is considered one of the premier screening tests for newborns and infants under six months of age.

The ABR test uses a special computer and program to measure the way your child’s hearing nerve responds to different sounds. Three to four small stickers called "electrodes" will be placed on your child’s head and in front of his or her ears and connected to a computer. As sounds are made through the earphones, the electrodes measure how your child’s hearing nerves respond to them. The audiologist then compares several "markers" identified on the computer program to determine if the child passes or fails the test.

Facts about Auditory Brainstem Response testing:

  • The ABR test measures reactions of the many parts of a child’s nervous system that affect hearing.
  • The ABR test is safe and does not hurt the child.
  • ABR tests are most successful if the child is sleeping or laying still.

In the event a child fails an ABR, your audiologist will assist you in navigating next steps.