Screening Newborns for Hearing Problems: Panel Identifies New Techniques, Calls for More Research

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Bethesda, Md., convened a panel to recommend ways to promote universal hearing screening programs for newborns.

It is estimated that at least 12,000 infants are born with hearing impairments each year in the United States and at least 50 percent are not identified until two or three years of age.

A March 1993 National Institutes of Health consensus conference recommended universal hearing screening for newborns, and universal screening has been adopted as a priority by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Key Recommendations

  • Based on a review of published data, the group identified three specific screening techniques that can be carried out by a wide variety of personnel, such as nurses or volunteers, with appropriate training.
  • Initial screening should be carried out before three months of age to ensure that interventions can begin before six months of age.
  • The initial screening program should be coupled with a program that:
    • Tracks infants who are identified with potential hearing impairments.
    • Provides them with follow-up diagnostic testing.
    • Offers interventions for those with confirmed hearing impairments.
  • Universal hearing screening be established in newborn nurseries and that children be screened upon entering school and periodically thereafter.