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Screening the newborn for hearing loss

Lisa M Adcock, MD
Drifa Freysdottir, MD
Section Editors
Steven A Abrams, MD
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Deputy Editor
Melanie S Kim, MD


Significant hearing loss is the most common disorder at birth and leads to delayed language development, difficulties with behavior and psychosocial interactions, and poor academic achievement. Detection of hearing loss during infancy can initiate intervention resulting in improved language outcomes.

Screening for hearing loss in the newborn will be reviewed here. The etiology, evaluation, and management of hearing impairment in children are discussed separately. (See "Hearing impairment in children: Etiology" and "Hearing impairment in children: Evaluation" and "Hearing impairment in children: Treatment".)


The extent of hearing loss is defined by measuring the hearing threshold in decibels (dB) at various frequencies. Normal hearing has a threshold of 0 to 20 dB. Hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. In individuals with bilateral hearing loss, the severity of loss is based on the better-functioning ear. Severity of hearing loss is defined as follows [1,2]:

Mild − 20 to 40 dB

Moderate − 41 to 60 dB

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 13, 2016.
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