Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Hearing Tests Crucial For Newborns

I came across a good article in the New York Times which highlights the need for hearing tests for newborns: without them it is difficult to predict what might be wrong if the child is not speaking or reaching other developmental milestones.

Hearing tests are mandatory in 40 states, and routine but optional in the rest. There’s a good reason for the rule:

“We need to identify children early and provide them with hearing tools and training by the time they are 6 months,” said Dr. John Greinwald, a pediatric otologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Studies now confirm that the earlier the intervention, the better the chance that the child will develop listening and language skills.

“If you hear from birth, you learn to listen,” said Anne Oyler, an audiologist for the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association. “More than 90 percent of what babies learn is from incidental listening. If a child isn’t fitted with hearing aids until 2, that is when he or she will have to start learning what sounds are. If we catch kids in the first few months, we don’t see delays and they do beautifully.”

Hearing impairments are pretty common: 1 in 1000 babies are born deaf. The prevalence of this disability is what interested me in pursuing hearing research for my thesis, but also makes it equally distressing when precautions that could aid children in development go unheeded.


  1. #1 CRM-114
    September 7, 2007

    Vision should also be tested, at least before starting kindergarten.

    I made it most of the way through the 4th grade before a substitute teacher realized I couldn’t see the chalkboard from the front row. I was so severely myopic that I couldn’t see the stars in the night sky, only the Moon, which to me looked as featureless as a light bulb.

    Was this an impoverished school? Not at all. It was the Washington Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County.

    My own experience is why nothing surprises me about how oblivious adults can be who are in charge of children.

  2. #2 Dirkh
    September 11, 2007

    I wished I had been in possession of a nice baseline of audiograms and other hearing tests over my lifetime, when I was suddenly struck down by sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in my 40s. Had no prior data and no way to begin making sense out of what was happening to me.

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