Posts Tagged ‘hearing loss’

Hearing loss in babies

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

baby's hearing testHearing impairment is the decreased ability to hear and discriminate among sounds. It is one of the most common birth defects.

We’re not sure what causes hearing loss in babies. Some possible causes are genetics (if you or your partner has a family history of hearing loss), viruses and infections during pregnancy, premature birth, low birthweight (less than 5.8 pounds), and infections after birth.

There are degrees of hearing loss, too. A baby can have mild, severe or complete hearing loss. Other times a child can hear but the sounds are garbled. Hearing loss is a common birth defect affecting 12,000 babies in the U.S. each year (nearly 3 in 1,000). If a child can’t hear properly, he may have trouble learning to talk.

Newborn screening

Ideally, your baby should have his hearing tested as part of the newborn screening tests which are done in the hospital after your baby is born. The CDC recommends that all babies be screened for hearing impairment before 1 month of age. Language and communication develop rapidly during the first 2 to 3 years of life, and undetected hearing impairment can lead to delays in developing these skills. Without newborn screening, children with hearing impairment often are not diagnosed until 2 to 3 years of age. By then, they have lost precious time to develop speaking skills. A timely diagnosis is important!

Getting help

If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, don’t wait – have a conversation with his healthcare provider (a pediatrician or nurse practitioner). Here are other options:

  • Every state has an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. You can click here or call 1-800-CDC-INFO to locate your local EHDI program for services and information.
  • The CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities has a website on hearing loss in children, with specific pages for families, health care providers and others. The site contains information on prevention, signs and symptoms, screening and diagnosis, treatment of hearing loss, as well as statistical data on hearing loss. If you have any concerns about your child, start with the “Basics” and “Treatments” sections.
  • Additional resources and support networks related to hearing impairment and deaf children can be found here.
  • If your baby has a hearing impairment,  he may benefit from early intervention services, such as speech therapy. Learn how to access early intervention services in your area.

Bottom line

If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, getting help early is very important – preferably before 6 months of age.

Have questions: Text or email us at

Photo credit:  Baby’s First Test

September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month

Friday, September 5th, 2014

newborn-screening-picture1September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month. All babies in the United States get newborn screening. These tests look for rare but serious and mostly treatable health disorders. Babies with these disorders often look healthy. But unless the condition is diagnosed and treated early, a baby can develop lasting physical problems or intellectual disabilities, or may even die.

How is newborn screening done?

Newborn screening is done in 3 ways:
1. Most newborn screening is done with a blood test. Your baby’s provider pricks your baby’s heel to get a few drops of blood. The blood is collected on a special paper and sent to a lab for testing. The lab then sends the results back to your baby’s health provider.
2. For the hearing screening, your provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
3. For heart screening, a test called pulse oximetry is used. This test checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood by using a sensor attached to his finger or foot. This test is used to screen babies for a heart condition called critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).

When is newborn screening done?
Your baby gets newborn screening before he leaves the hospital, when he’s 1 or 2 days old. Some states require that babies have newborn screening again about 2 weeks later.

If your baby is not born in a hospital, talk to your baby’s provider about getting newborn screening before he is 7 days old.

How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?
Each state decides which tests are required. The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 31 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early.

Today all states require newborn screening for at least 26 health conditions. The District of Columbia and 42 states screen for 29 of the 31 recommended conditions. Some states require screening for up to 50 or more. You can find out which conditions your state screen for here.

Preemies and hearing loss

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

baby's earNearly 3 in 1,000 babies (about 12,000) are born with some kind of hearing loss in the United States each year. Most babies get their hearing checked as part of newborn screening before they leave the hospital. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare conditions at birth.

If your baby doesn’t pass his newborn hearing screening, it doesn’t always mean he has hearing loss. He may just need to be screened again. If your baby doesn’t pass a second time, it’s very important that he gets a full hearing test as soon as possible and before he’s 3 months old.

The risk of hearing loss is significantly higher in babies born with a very low birth weight (less than 1500 grams). However, hearing loss can be caused by other factors, such as genetics, family history, infections during pregnancy, infections in your baby after birth, injuries, medications or being around loud sounds. See our article  to learn more about the different causes of hearing loss.

Possible treatments

Different treatments are available depending on your child’s level of hearing loss, his health, and the cause of the hearing loss. They include medication, surgery, ear tubes, hearing aids, cochlear implants, learning American Sign Language and receiving speech therapy.  The article on our website discusses each of these types of treatments.

If a child needs speech therapy, it can usually be provided through the early intervention program for babies and toddlers. Read this post to understand how to access services. The sooner your child gets help, the sooner language skills will emerge and improve.

If you need more detailed information, check out these sites:

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA 2004)  

Hearing loss treatment and intervention services

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.


CMV saliva test for newborns

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

A new study has found that a simple saliva test can identify babies born with cytomegalovirus, CMV. Babies born with this common virus are at increased risk for hearing loss, vision loss or learning disabilities.

CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) infection in the United States. Each year, about 40,000 babies are born with CMV infection. Most babies are not harmed by the virus, but some are. About 90% of babies who are infected with CMV have no symptoms at birth, and most parents aren’t aware that their children have it. However, about 10% to 15% of infected babies develop one or more lasting disabilities during the first few years of life. For this reason, all babies born with congenital CMV infection should have regular hearing and vision tests. An accurate newborn screening test would quickly identify those babies at risk.

According to Suresh Boppana, professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and lead author on the new study, somewhere between 20-40% of early childhood hearing loss probably is caused by CMV. The saliva test utilized in the new study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, was easy to perform and highly accurate. The researchers tested about 35,000 babies and the test was 97 percent accurate in identifying babies infected with the virus.

Newborns are screened for dozens of diseases and genetic disorders while still in the hospital. Dr. Boppana recognizes that adding another test to the current roster of newborn screening tests, which are determined by each state, will be no easy matter, but is optimistic.

Want to learn more about CMV? Please join us on Twitter for a live #pregnancychat on CMV on June 22nd at 12 noon, EST. We will be joined by Janelle Greenlee, President and Founder of Stop CMV – The CMV Action Network.

The cardboard box

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

cardboard-boxIt’s holiday time and many folks are out shopping for toys.  I can’t believe the number of electronic gadgets there are.  There are toys that walk, talk, convert from a robot to a car, buzz, fly, have sirens and beepers and flashing lights… Seems like these offer a lot of sensory overload with not much left to a child’s imagination. And some toys are actually too loud to be safe on children’s ears. (Read this interesting article.)

I remember when my kids were really small, the best present they got wasn’t the present, it was the box it came in.  Their little minds turned that box into a drum (wooden spoons are a must), a hat, a garage for toy cars, a suitcase for doll clothes, or a carrier for dolls, a bed for baby, a push cart for the cat… One of the best gifts my children received was the big box that contained our new stove.  It was huge, a house to them.  We actually converted it into a playhouse by cutting windows and a door in the sides.

I wonder if you drove to your local appliance store if they would have any discarded boxes you could pick up.  With a little paint or some markers, just think of the things you could make for your little ones – a house, a car, a space ship… In these tough times, it wouldn’t cost much and probably would make a fabulous gift.

Update on newborn screening

Monday, July 19th, 2010

newborn-screening-picture1Many new parents know that their baby will have to undergo a newborn screening test.  But do you know what the blood from that little heel prick is testing for?  The goal of newborn screening is to identify babies at increased risk for certain metabolic or genetic diseases so that medical treatment can be started quickly.  For the conditions included in newborn screening, identification in the newborn period is crucial because early intervention can lead to a significant reduction of illness,  irreversible neurological and developmental damage, and sometimes even death.  Recently the March of Dimes, following the recommendation of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) as its 30th core condition to the newborn screening panel.   SCID describes a rare group of inherited disorders characterized by defects in two critical immune system cells that normally help the body to fight infections.  In the media, SCID is frequently referred to as “the bubble boy” disease.  Experts estimate that approximately 40-100 infants are diagnosed with SCID in the US every year, although that may be an underestimate.  Some researchers believe that there may be many undiagnosed infants dying of SCID-related infections every year.  Infants diagnosed with SCID before they exhibit symptoms can have treatments that will significantly improve their health outcomes and potentially save their lives, such as stem cell transplants or enzyme replacement therapy.

Another newborn screening test that many of us may not even know our babies take is for hearing loss.  Each year in the US 12,000 infants are born with hearing loss.  Frequently, the cause is unknown.  But hearing loss can go undetected for years.  Infants should be screened for hearing loss no later than 1 month old.  Fortunately most states do include a hearing test in their mandatory newborn screening panel, so the test takes place before the baby even leaves the hospital.   The test is short and painless—in fact many babies sleep right through it!  If hearing loss is detected, more tests will be conducted to determine the severity of the loss and possibly its cause.   Early intervention for infants with hearing loss is very important both for communication and social development.   Recently we posted about the importance of early intervention for hearing loss.

Remember though that these tests are screening tests–they are not diagnostic.  If a screen comes back positive, it does not mean that your baby has that disease.  But it does mean that they need to have follow-up testing done.  So make sure you follow your health care provider’s recommendations.

Today, nearly all of the 4 million infants born each year in the United States undergo newborn screening.  Unfortunately, not all states currently test for all 30 of the recommended disorders.  Since there is currently no federal law regulating newborn screening programs, each state determines its own policies and procedures.  Curious as to what newborn screening is mandated in your state?  You can find out at the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center.   You can also read other posts about newborn screening here and here.

Quarterback protects son’s hearing

Friday, March 5th, 2010

34606191_thbI’m not a huge football fan, but I do enjoy watching the Super Bowl (probably because it’s an excuse to eat nachos and chicken wings). A colleague just forwarded me a link to an article in the NY Times that focuses on children and their risk of hearing loss. The article features Saints quarterback, Drew Brees’s one-year old son at the game wearing earmuffs. Besides making him look absolutely adorable, this basic protective gear served a very important purpose — to protect his tiny ears from the thunderous noise generated at stadium. We might not think of noise as dangerous, but according to audiologists the ear canal of a child is very small. Therefore the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. This can make young children more susceptible to irreversible hearing loss and parents need to be more aware.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all babies be screened for hearing impairment before 1 month of age, preferably before they leave the hospital. This is because language and communication develop rapidly during the first two to three years of life, and undetected hearing impairment can lead to delays in developing these skills. Without newborn screening, children with hearing impairment usually are not diagnosed until 2 to 3 years of age.

The goal of early screening, diagnosis and treatment is to help children with hearing impairment develop language and academic skills equal to those of their peers. Most states have an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program to help ensure that all babies are screened, and that infants who do not pass the screening receive the follow-up care they need. The March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the CDC and others strongly support these programs.

Ear infections

Friday, July 18th, 2008

A co-worker of mine was talking at lunch the other day about her son’s repeat ear infections.  It reminded me of the many infections my own son had many years ago.

Did you know that about two out of every three children have at least one ear infection before their second birthday?  That is because their immune systems are still developing, and the tiny eustachian tube in each ear has not yet grown enough in position or size to drain fluid that can build up behind the eardrum.  Fluid that sits in one spot can become a breeding ground for bacteria.  Did you know that standing fluid can create hearing loss?

When my son had an ear infection, he would spike a fever and cry all the time.  But my friend’s son has a different symptom – no fever, no crying, he just keeps tugging at his ear.  Since he has had a couple ear infections, his mom now recognizes the ear tugging signs and takes him to his doc for a check.

If you suspect your baby might have an ear infection, give his health care provider a call. Providers can diagnose an ear infection by looking deep inside a child’s ear canal with a special device. Some ear infections clear up without treatment within a few days. Others require antibiotics and your child’s provider will be able to judge what is best for each situation.

Some children are prone to repeated ear infections. In some tougher cases, a provider may recommend inserting tiny tubes in the eardrums to help drain the middle ear. The tubes may help prevent speech and language problems that may result from hearing loss from repeated or long-lasting ear infection.  This, ultimately, is what my son had done and it made a big difference.  But, luckily, it seems like my friend’s son will outgrow his ear trouble without the need for tubes.

Read our article on ear infection for more information.