A child can develop speech and language only if he/she can hear well. The first 2-3 years of life are ‘critical’ for speech and language development. If a child misses out on hearing in these ‘critical’ years, he/she will face a delay in speech and language development. Diagnosing hearing loss early enables early intervention, and thus, better outcomes.
As per the Joint Committee on Hearing Loss (JCIH) guidelines issued in 2007, every newborn should undergo hearing screening to detect hearing loss not later than 1 month of age, a complete evaluation of hearing loss, if detected or suspected on initial screening should be completed not later than 3 months of age, and any intervention such as hearing aids or cochlear implants (for children with a sensorineural hearing loss), should begin before the age of 6 months. In order to achieve this, every newborn should undergo hearing screening at birth, and a detailed hearing evaluation thereafter, if a suspicion of hearing loss is present on screening. All newborns who have the presence of a high-risk factor predisposing to hearing loss should undergo an OAE and ABR/BERA, and a further detailed evaluation if hearing loss is detected on these tests. These children also need to be followed up until 3 years of age to look for any signs of hearing loss, even if the initial tests show normal hearing.
There is a possibility that a child who has normal hearing at birth may develop hearing loss later on in life. Hence, whenever a hearing loss is suspected in children, a hearing evaluation is necessary.