MENU CALL SEARCH

Hearing Screening

Milford Regional Medical Center, together with the Department of Public Health (DPH), screens all infants for hearing loss. Early identification of hearing loss is important for the normal development of speech and language. This information sheet contains the answers to some frequently asked questions concerning your baby’s hearing and this screening procedure. If you would like more information, please speak to your child’s primary care physician.

Why is it important to screen my baby’s hearing so soon after birth?

Hearing impairment is a relatively common congenital birth defect; approximately one to three out of 1000 babies are born with a permanent hearing loss. For babies who require care in the NICU, the risk of hearing loss increases to one to three in 100. Most of these babies have no significant medical or family history. Also, hearing loss can be easy to overlook since a tiny infant is unable to express their symptoms or difficulties unlike an adult or older child. Since babies learn to speak by listening, a child who is unable to hear normally will be unable to develop speech and language skills normally. Early identification of hearing loss allows us to give your child the special attention they need to assist in their speech and language development. Access to early intervention services is not only your right as a citizen of this Commonwealth, but also a vital tool in preventing and treating speech and language disorders.

How is my baby’s hearing screened?

Specially trained staff uses a test called Automated Auditory Brainstem Evoked Response in which soft sounds are delivered to the ear using earphones. Sticker sensors are placed on your baby’s forehead and neck to pick up the brain’s response to the sound. This response is then analyzed by a computer. These analyses yield either a PASS or REFER result for each ear individually.

What does PASS and REFER mean?

A result of PASS is indicative of normal hearing. REFER means that more testing is needed. Milford Regional Medical Center, together with the Department of Public Health (DPH), screens all infants for hearing loss. Early identification of hearing loss is important for the normal development of speech and language. This information sheet contains the answers to some frequently asked questions concerning your baby’s hearing and this screening procedure. If you would like more information, please speak to your child’s primary care physician.

What happens if my baby REFERS in one or both ears?

If your baby refers in one or both ears they will be scheduled for a full evaluation with an audiologist, a Masters or Doctoral level professional who diagnoses, treats and manages individuals with hearing and balance problems. It is important to know that not all babies who REFER actually have a permanent hearing loss. Many will have fluid in the ear canal or behind the ear drum which is a temporary condition.  All results, including type and degree of hearing loss, will be discussed after a full evaluation with the audiologist.

If my child requires an additional full evaluation, where do I go?

There are several audiologic diagnostic facilities in Central Massachusetts that are approved by DPH, which includes UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester; Children’s Hospital with locations in Boston, Lexington and Waltham; and Health Alliance Hospital Burbank in Fitchburg.

What are some high risk factors for hearing loss?

Family history of hearing loss, premature birth, low birth weight (under 3lbs, 3oz), ear infections, high bilirubin levels (requiring a transfusion), syndromes (ie: CHARGE, Down Syndrome), craniofacial anomalies (ie: cleft palate) and infections (ie: bacterial meningitis, cytomegalovirus).

Is this screening painful or harmful to my baby in any way?

No. It is completely non-invasive; most infants will sleep through the whole test.

Where is the test performed? How long will it take?

The screening is usually performed in the nursery, but can also be performed at the mother’s bed side if it is quiet. The length of time varies and will be faster if the baby is in a good sleep state; usually following a feeding.

How will I receive my baby’s result?

Your baby’s health care provider or nurse will give you the results and tell you if more testing is needed. They will also facilitate scheduling your full evaluation with the audiologist. You should have this appointment and a written copy of your baby’s results before you are discharged from the hospital.

How is all of this screening and follow-up testing paid for?

State law mandates that all third party payers cover the full cost of the newborn hearing screening. If your baby requires a follow-up appointment with an audiologist, most insurers will cover the cost of that appointment. In the event that your insurance carrier denies payment, the cost will be covered by the Department of Public Health.

Can I refuse this screening?

You can choose not to have your child screened if you object based on sincerely held religious beliefs. Your nurse will provide a separate waiver which requires your signature.

What are some other sources of information on newborn hearing screening if I have more questions?

You can contact the Department of Public Health at 1-800-882-1435 (for TTY call 1-617-624-6001).

Another wonderful source, www.babyhearing.org, was put together by Boys Town National Research Hospital and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

If my child passes this screening, could they still acquire a hearing loss later in life?

Yes. Both temporary and permanent forms of hearing loss can occur in a child of any age (see the list of high risk factors). If at any time you become concerned that your child may have a hearing loss or speech and language delay, please do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician and schedule an appointment for an audiologic evaluation with an audiologist.

For your consideration, The National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders compiled the following list of early speech and language milestones through your child’s first year of life (NIH Pub. No. 95-4040 1995).

Birth - 3 Months

  • Startle to loud sounds
  • Soothed by your voice
  • Turns head when you are talking
  • Awakened by loud sounds

3 - 6 Months

  • Looks upward to turn toward new sound
  • Responds to “no” and changes in the tone of your voice
  • Enjoys rattles and other noise making toys
  • Begins to repeat sounds (ie: ooh, aah, ba-ba)
  • Becomes scared by loud sounds

6 - 12 Months

  • Responds to his/her own name, the telephone, soft voices
  • Understands common words such as cup, shoe and sayings such as “bye-bye”
  • Makes babbling sounds (ie: ba-ba-da-ga)
  • Begins to respond to simple requests such as “come here”
  • Enjoys games like peak-a-boo and patty cake
  • By the end of 12 months (and before 18 months) says the first word

Find Care

  • Maternity
    Maternity

    508-422-2320

    Milford Regional Medical Center
    14 Prospect St., 2nd floor
    Milford, MA 01757

  • Women's Pavilion
    Women's Pavilion

    508-422-2092

    Milford Regional, Hill Health Center
    14 Prospect Street
    Milford, MA 01757

  • Engage with us Online