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This Test Is Called The Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Test And It Can Be Given To Newborn Babies.

By Emma Green

Less than 3 days after he was born, the 8-pound, 6-ounce newborn baby named Sean, received a hearing test from the audiologist while he was fast asleep. Sean’s audiologist simply placed his bassinet in front of a standard personal computer with a few extra wires sticking out. She then took one of the wires which had a small plastic probe attached to the end of it and placed it in Sean’s right ear, after which she entered some information into the computer. The computer monitor revealed a complex display of multi-colored graphics.

The procedure that I was observing at this ear research institute, employs cutting edge technology, that can provide children with some form of hearing loss, with an early advantage for dealing with future hearing issues. There are approximately four thousand kids each year born with hearing problems, and twenty-four thousand more infants experience some extent of hearing loss. This process, known as the otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test, was conceived for allowing families and pediatricians know in a matter of hours following birth on the strength of their newborns hearing; it is an opportunity for parents to give their children a chance to live their life with minimal, or no disabilities, at all.

It isn’t uncommon for kids to come to two or three years of age before anyone finally notices a hearing condition is present. This may lead to devastating results. Language and speech delays should be expected. The children are delayed in speaking and they have lost out on the information about their surroundings that comes through hearing. The first 2 years of life is the most crucial phase of any child’s development, as far as emotional and intellectual progression is concerned. There are some kids with hearing conditions who are diagnosed incorrectly, even as mentally handicapped.

Testing the hearing of newborns used to be complex and expensive before the introduction of OAE testing in 1990. Before that time, the ABR test was used. Electrodes are hooked up to the child’s body to gauge their auditory nerve activity as it makes its way up to the brain. The problems with this test included, the $90 cost, the need for a physician or audiologist to administer the test, and the fact that it was a complex, 30 minute test. There aren’t enough physicians and audiologists in the world to give the test to every newborn.

The OAE is more cost effective and easier to administer therefore does not require a full time audiologist. This new exam has cut the time to approximately 5 minutes by exposing the small hair cells in the cochlea to sound and analyzing their response. A microphone is used to detect the response made from the hair cells when the sound is transmitted into the baby’s ear. For baby Sean, the testing is nearly over, as the audiologist begins to test the other ear and then smiles at the results. Sean was fortunate to be born with excellent hearing.

If the first test indicates hearing deficiencies, a second test is given a week later. This is because there may be fluid left in the ear canal after birth that can affect the results. An auditory brain stem response assessment will be done if a newborn exhibits any signs of a hearing condition on the second test, as this will help to narrow down the issue. Then a corrective plan of action can be determined.

An infant as young as 3 months old, can have a hearing aid fitted for them, when the hearing impairment is negligible. In some instances, this is the only course of action needed to repair a child’s hearing. Once a baby comes to be eighteen months old, a surgeon will be able to conduct a cochlear implant, which is a surgery involving permanent rectification for their hearing conditions.

If the newborn is deaf, the parents are shown how to deal with the baby by using visual stimulus to help him/her interact with their surroundings. If the children who experience such problems receive this extra attention, they will normally develop regularly. American sign language, lip-reading, hearing aids and cued speech are all good ways to help with children who are faced with hearing problems.

To find free hearing tests information see this resource. You need to visit this site to learn about hearing damage.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Green, Emma "This Test Is Called The Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Test And It Can Be Given To Newborn Babies.." This Test Is Called The Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Test And It Can Be Given To Newborn Babies.. 1 Jul. 2010. 4 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Green, E (2010, July 1). This Test Is Called The Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Test And It Can Be Given To Newborn Babies.. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Green, Emma "This Test Is Called The Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Test And It Can Be Given To Newborn Babies."

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