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Early Childhood Hearing Screening and Follow-up

Newborn Hearing Screening in Health Care Settings

Hearing loss in infancy is more common than most people realize, affecting about three in every 1,000 babies. If not identified early, it is likely to delay or impair a child's development. Hearing problems are difficult to detect through observation alone, so almost all newborns have their hearing checked with special equipment before leaving the hospital. The screening is simple, painless, and takes only a few minutes when a baby is quiet. If hearing loss is found early, the child may receive help to communicate and learn. Note: This resource is under review.

Parents and professionals serving young children should be sure they know the results of the newborn hearing screening. If the baby:

  • Passed on both ears, no further testing is typically needed until the baby is 6 months of age or older
  • Did not pass, or was not screened, ask the hospital or the baby's doctor how and where to get the next required test

If you need more help getting the hearing test, contact your state's Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) coordinator.

Hearing Screening and Follow-up in Head Start

Hearing loss can occur at any time in a young child's life. By 6 years of age, about six in every 1,000 children have a hearing loss. Without appropriate screening, the condition can remain undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, for years as the child falls further behind in cognitive, social, and emotional development. Children need to be able to hear clearly to develop spoken language skills. Periodic screening during the early childhood years will help to ensure that children are able to communicate and learn.

Within 45 calendar days of a child's entry into a Head Start program, the grantee must perform or obtain linguistically and age-appropriate screening procedures. The goal is to identify concerns regarding a child's developmental, sensory, behavioral, motor, language, social, cognitive, perceptual, and emotional skills.

A sensory screening tool must be used to identify potential vision or hearing concerns. Paper screening tools used to assess a child's development are not considered sensory screening tools (OHS–PC–B–025). Further, a formal evaluation is required for any child who identifies as possibly having a disability. Screening and assessment requirements are outlined in 45 CFR 1304.20(b) and 1308.6(b) of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) hearing screening is an objective and reliable screening method often used with newborns. Because it is accurate, quick, flexible, and requires no behavioral response, it is also the most appropriate way to screen children 0–3 years of age in early childhood care and education settings. Children ages 3 to 5 are most commonly screened with pure tone audiometry or OAE screening technologies. 

The Early Childhood Hearing Outreach (ECHO) Initiative at Utah State University serves Head Start as the National Resource Center on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention. It assists grantees and delegate agencies in their hearing screening efforts. The goals of the ECHO Initiative are to ensure early childhood education and health care providers have:

  • Up-to-date information about recommended hearing screening practices
  • Tools to effectively implement hearing screening so that children with hearing-health needs are identified as early as possible and provided with appropriate follow-up services and support
  • Strategies for using hearing screening as an opportunity to promote language development in all children as an integral part of school readiness

To learn more, visit www.KidsHearing.org. Use the free, comprehensive instructional video tutorial modules and implementation tools to improve your hearing screening program and practices.

Additional Resources

What's Your Baby's Hearing Screening Result?
This article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information on the importance of early intervention if a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss. Early childhood specialists and parents may refer to the resources in this article if they have a concern about their child's hearing loss.

Topic:Physical Health

Keywords:Health and wellnessEarly intervention servicesHealth professionalsEarly childhood education

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