Is it necessary to test your newborns hearing sensitivity??
As a Neonatal Audiologist I often hear this question. Yes it is really important to test your newborns hearing sensitivity within a month. Hearing loss is a hidden handicap. It is very difficult to identify it at an early stage. Only after 1year when the child does not start speaking or responding the alarm must begin to ring for the parents.
The incidents of hearing loss is 1in 1000 in India. The interesting thing is half of these babies does not fall in the risk criteria. Hence most of it goes unidentified at an early stage. So now we are following a universal hearing screening protocol.
As a rule of thumb we follow 1,3,&6. Identifying the loss at 1month, a complete diagnosis at 3rd month and intervention as early as 6 months.
Hearing is the channel which opens the door for speech and verbal communication. If a child cannot hear, they wont be able to replicate the sounds from their environment, leaving them mute. Hence they fall back in their speech and language milestones compared to their hearing peer group. There is a critical period for speech and language development (0-5years).
The brain makes numerous synaptic connections at this golden period and accelarates the pace of learning. Once this period is lost they are at a loss, Which in turn tends to delay their ingress to a verbal world, normal schooling, and later on they might be prone to face academic, vocational and socialising issues, which can have a detrimental impact upon their overall personality.
On the other hand a Child who is identified and diagnosed early can also opt for early hearing aid fitting or a cochlear implantation followed by speech and language therapy, along with a good and stimulating home environment which can further accelerate and develop normal speech and language milestones. At the age of 3 they are as good as their peers in terms of comprehension and expression with good speech intelligibility. The key is early identification and intervention.