Facts About Newborn Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the most frequently occurring birth defect, occurring more frequently than all metabolic disorders screened for at birth combined.

In addition, the screening cost per confirmed diagnosis of hearing loss is far less than the cost per confirmed PKU diagnosis.

Approximately 3 in 1,000 babies are born with a mild hearing loss or greater. 1 in 1,000 babies are born deaf, and 90% of children with hearing loss are born to normal-hearing parents. Over 50% of babies born with hearing loss have no known risk factors for hearing loss.

In 2012, 99% of the births in Washington state that were followed by the Department of Health received a hearing screen. The average age at the time of the initial hearing screen was 2.3 days, well below the national goal of screening before 1 month of age. Although most infants pass the screening, those who do not pass need further testing.

Each year in Washington state approximately 233 babies are born with hearing loss.

As of October 2006, legislation mandating newborn hearing screening had been passed in 37 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico). Although newborn hearing screening is not mandated in Washington state, it has become the standard of care.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses newborn hearing screening (Pediatrics, February 1999).

A hearing screening can cost as little as $25 per infant, and can be completed in as little as 5 minutes.

Even a mild hearing loss can significantly impact a child's ability to learn language. Children identified with hearing loss and receiving early intervention services prior to 6 months of age achieve significantly higher language scores than children identified after 6 months of age.

Most babies with hearing loss may still be able to hear louder sounds and lower pitch sounds. Many babies with hearing loss may not be able to hear softer and higher pitch sounds, such as whispers and talking from another room.

Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the inability to detect sound. It is important to understand that hearing loss does not necessarily equal deafness.

There are varying degrees of hearing loss (PDF), ranging from mild to profound (deaf). Learn about challenges facing a child with hearing loss (PDF).

Monitoring Your Baby's Hearing

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby's hearing, consult your baby's doctor right away. Your doctor can provide medical help and make referrals for further testing.

Learn about what to watch for in your baby's hearing (PDF).

Risk Factors for Hearing Loss

Below are some of the common risk factors for hearing loss. You should contact your pediatrician immediately if you have any concerns about your child's hearing.

  • Family history of childhood hearing loss
  • Parental or caregiver concern
  • A congenital infection, such as CMV  
  • A syndrome associated with permanent or progressive hearing loss
  • Craniofacial anomalies, including those with anomalies of the pinna and ear canal
  • Chronic middle ear problems
  • Birthweight of less than 1,500 grams
  • Severe hyperbilirubinemia requiring exchange transfusion
  • Exposure to ototoxic medications
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • APGAR scores of 0 to 4 at 1 minute or 0 to 6 at 5 minutes
  • Mechanical ventilation for greater than 5 days
  • A stay in a neonatal intensive care unit ( NICU) for longer than 5 days
  • Head trauma