1. Why does my baby need a hearing screening test?
About 4 in 1,000 babies in Singapore have significant hearing impairment at birth and are at risk of delay in speech, language, intellectual, social and emotional development1. Early detection followed by appropriate intervention will minimise the harmful effects on the child’s development. Without a screening test, this impairment may not be detected until much later. Thus, the aim of the screening test is to detect hearing loss early in order to facilitate intervention and treatment as quickly as possible, preferably by 6 months of age.
It is very important to attend these appointments so that any hearing impairment can be diagnosed early and suitable intervention and treatment can be sought.
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2. When and how will my baby’s hearing be screened?
This screening test is performed within the first few days after birth and usually prior to your baby’s discharge from hospital. It is performed by trained staff and takes about 15 to 30 minutes. The screening test is safe and will not hurt your baby in any way.
The instrument used will either be an Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) analyser, an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) analyser or both. For OAE, a small ear probe is placed at the opening of your baby’s ears. The instrument makes clicking sounds and the probe listens to the responses (echoes) from the baby’s ears. For AABR, three jelly tab sensors are placed on the head. A soft earphone delivering clicking sounds will evoke responses from your baby which will be recorded by the instrument. The staff will inform you of the result after the test.
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3. What does it mean if my baby passes the screening?
This means that your baby’s hearing function is normal at the time of testing. However, if you have any family history of hearing loss or a child who was previously diagnosed, please inform the hearing screening personnel.
In some babies, hearing impairment may develop gradually as a result of recurrent ear infections, genetic factors or chronic illnesses. Hence, you need to be vigilant and continue to monitor the behavioural responses of your child’s hearing ability according to the checklist provided in the Baby Health Booklet. If you suspect at any time that your child has a hearing problem, you should consult your doctor.
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4. What if my baby does not pass the screening?
It does not necessarily mean that your baby has a hearing impairment, but further investigation will be needed. If your baby does not pass the repeat screening, a referral will be made to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctors who may decide on further confirmatory test.
Diagnosis of hearing impairment in a baby is made through specialised hearing tests and detailed evaluation by the ENT doctors. Treatment options may range from hearing amplification with hearing aids, audiovisual therapy and cochlear implants.
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We have a team of paediatricians and nurses specialising in neonatology. We provide a full range of specialist care: pre-delivery counselling for parents with high-risk pregnancies, attendance at high-risk deliveries, resuscitation of a sick newborn, neonatal intensive care, well-baby nursery care, post-discharge follow-up and continuity of care.
Click here to find out more about our Department of Neonatology.
The information provided on this page is meant purely for educational purposes and may not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider before starting any treatment or if you have any questions related to your child’s health, physical fitness or medical conditions.