Most babies with hearing loss are not diagnosed until they are 1½ to 3 years old, unless a routine screening hearing test is done. These simple tests are recommended for all babies. However, about 1 out of 3 babies in the U.S. did not receive a screening hearing test during the last full year of data, according to the October 17, 2003 issue of MMWR published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is a gap in screening. There is also a gap in treatment. Of those babies found to have a hearing problem during newborn screening, 1 out of 5 did not receive the treatment they needed when it would help the most.

The CDC recommends that all babies be screened using the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention 1-3-6 approach. Every baby should have a screening hearing test before 1 month of age. If the results of the screening test are suspicious, babies should have a complete hearing evaluation by age 3 months. Whenever there is proven hearing loss, treatment should be begun before the baby is 6 months old.

Has your baby or toddler had a normal hearing screening test? If you’re not certain, find out. Earlier treatment helps to maximize a child’s language skills. No matter how old a child is, it’s better to begin now than to wait.

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Alan Greene MD contributor

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