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Screening the newborn for hearing loss

Betty R Vohr, MD
Section Editors
Steven A Abrams, MD
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Deputy Editor
Melanie S Kim, MD


Significant permanent hearing loss is a common disorder at birth and can lead 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, cognitive, behavioral, and academic 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 -10 to 15 dB. Hearing loss ranges from slight to profound. In individuals with bilateral hearing loss, the severity of loss is based on the better-functioning ear. Severity of hearing loss defined by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association as follows [1-3]:

No hearing loss – -10 to 15 dB

Slight – 16 to 25 dB

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 11, 2017.
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