Universal Infant Hearing Screenings Provide Early Detection and Treatment

Every day, 33 babies (or 12,000 each year) are born in the United States with permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss is the most frequent health condition in newborns for which screening tests are performed.

The most important years for speech and language development are between birth and 3 years old. By 18 months, 80% of language skills are present. By 2½, a child should be able to communicate in simple sentences. Early identification and treatment of hearing loss are crucial to developing communication skills.

Hearing Screenings Tailored Just for Babies

Hearing screening can be performed within a few hours after birth without discomfort to the baby. Infants born at the  Telfair BirthPlace have their hearing screened as part of their routine evaluation. The testing is performed using automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) technology where soft clicking sounds are presented to each ear through small earphones. Sensors on the baby's head record if there is a response from the hearing nerve.

If the baby passes the hearing screen, there is 99% confidence that hearing is adequate for speech and language development. If a baby does not pass the hearing screening, further testing is required. This does not necessarily mean there is permanent hearing loss. A second hearing screening after discharge from the hospital is recommended for those who do not pass the first test. However, hearing loss can occur after birth due to various factors such as family history and childhood accidents/illnesses, therefore periodic screening is recommended.

Keep Track of Your Child's Development with the Speech/Hearing Checklist

Parents are often the best detectors of hearing loss or speech problems. Use the following information to determine if your child's hearing is normal. If you suspect your child has difficulty hearing, contact your physician or the Center for Oto-Neurology at (912) 819-2479.

Birth-3 months

  • Startled by loud noises
  • Awakened by loud sounds
  • Soothed by parent's voice
  • Stops movement and seems to listen to sounds/speech

4-6 Months

  • Searches for interesting sounds
  • Enjoys rattles and sound toys
  • Appears to listen to speech
  • Coos and imitates own noises

7-10 Months

  • Turns head when name is called
  • Searches or looks for new sounds in room
  • Turns directly and quickly to "sh-sh"
  • Responds to "no" and "bye-bye"
  • Babbles and makes many different sounds

11-18 Months

  • Points to familiar people/objects when asked
  • Follows simple spoken directions
  • Recognizes body parts when named
  • Says two to three words by age 1 and eight to 10 words by 18 months
  • Asks one-to-two word questions

By 2 Years

  • Immediately finds sounds from any direction
  • Shows interest in sounds of radio or television
  • Enjoys hearing others read books
  • Begins combining two to three words when talking
  • Refers to self by name
  • Has vocabulary of about 270 words

2 ½ - 4 Years

  • Notices dog barking, telephone, knocking
  • Points to pictures when hearing words
  • Hears television/radio at same volume as others in family
  • Understands conversations easily
  • Hears when you call from another room
  • Uses two-to-three word sentences
  • Likes to name things
  • Asks many "why" and "what" questions 

By 5 Years

  • Hears and understands most speech
  • Hears and answers questions when first called
  • Hears quiet speech
  • Others think the child hears well
  • Says sounds correctly (except perhaps "s" and "th")
  • Uses same sentence structure as family
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