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Universal Hearing Screening Programme

Why does my baby need a hearing screening test?

In Singapore, approximate four in 1,000 babies are born with significant hearing impairment, which can lead to delays in speech, language, intellectual, social and emotional development 1. Early detection and timely intervention are crucial to mitigate these developmental impacts. Without screening, hearing impairments might not be identified until much later. Therefore, the objective of this screening is to detect hearing loss early, facilitating intervention and treatment as soon as possible, ideally by six months of age.

Attending these screening appointments is vital for the early diagnosis of any hearing impairment and to ensure prompt and appropriate intervention and treatment.

Source:  1PubMed
When and how will my baby’s hearing be screened?

The screening test is typically performed within the first few days after birth, usually before the baby is discharged from hospital. It is a safe, painless procedure taking about 15 to 30 minutes, performed by trained staff using either an Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) analyser, an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) analyser, or both.

For OAE testing, a small ear probe is inserted into the baby's ear to emit clicking sounds. The probe then captures the ear's responses, or echoes.

For AABR testing, three jelly tab sensors are placed on the baby's head and soft earphones deliver clicking sounds to elicit responses that are recorded by the device.

The results of the test will be communicated to you by the staff immediately afterwards.

What does it mean if my baby passes the screening?

A passed screening indicates normal hearing function in your baby at the time of the test. However, if there is a family history of hearing loss or a previously diagnosed child, please inform the hearing screening personnel.

Be aware that some babies may develop hearing impairment later due to factors such as recurrent ear infections, genetics or chronic illnesses. Therefore, it's important to continually monitor your child's hearing responses as outlined in the Baby Health Booklet. Should you have any concerns about your child's hearing at any time, consult a doctor.

What if my baby does not pass the screening?

A failed screening does not automatically indicate a hearing impairment, but it does entail further investigation. If your baby does not pass a repeat screening, a referral will be made to Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists for additional confirmatory tests.

The diagnosis of hearing impairment in infants involves specialised hearing tests and detailed evaluation by ENT doctors. Treatment options can vary, ranging from hearing aids for amplification to audiovisual therapy and cochlear implants.

Source: 1PubMed

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