February 19, 2002 at 9:35 PM CST - Updated July 3 at 1:40 AM
Babies have a long list of tests performed on them after they're born, a
nd over the past few years something new was added, a newborn hearing test. In January of this year, Missouri made newborn hearing tests mandatory. T
he first two years of a baby's life are vital for learning speech and language skills, t hat's why it's so important to get their hearing tested early, to help them with any problems they might have.
At just a few hours old, Sarah Latamondeer has already been through a round of tests. Just four pounds eleven ounces, she may be a little smaller than other newborns, but her parents Jody and Angela, have the same concerns all new parents have. Jody says, "B asically, like everyone else, make sure she's healthy, make sure she's fine, get her home mainly." B efore she goes home, there's one more test Sarah has to have. Nurses will use a cochlear emission screener to test Sarah's hearing. Here's how it works. A rubber tip is put into Sarah's ear, allowing the machine to get a response from her inner ear. Audiologist Ken Rubenacker says, " If the inner ear is normal, then the inner ear actually makes a response of it's own, in response to the sounds presented and we can measure that sound." After that a light flashes, to let nurses know that the test has been completed.
The cochlear emission screener is used to test the babies hearing right after they're born. If for some reason they don't pass then, they're tested right before they leave the hospital. If they don't pass again, they come back two weeks later. If a baby doesn't pass the first two times, there's no need to panic, it could be something minor that's causing the problems. Rubenacker says, "It could be j ust debris from the birthing process that may be present in the ear canal that gives a lot of problems sometimes. A lot of times after a few days that may have cleared and then we'll get a passing result."
All this makes new parents like Jody and Angela feel better. Jody says, "Y ou'll know that if you do them, the hearing will be fine. If not, you'll know right then and you'll get it taken care of as quickly as possible." If a child does have a hearing problem, proper treatment or therapy should start before they're six months old.
Newborn hearing tests are mandatory in Missouri and Kentucky. They will be mandatory in Illinois next year. Right now, they're not mandatory in Tennessee, but the issue is before the legislature. If you're not sure if your newborn will get this test, just ask your doctor.
On Wednesday's "Baby Your Baby" report, we'll take look at pacifier use, and when parents should think about breaking their child of the habit.