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Repeat Tests Help Spot Newborn Hearing Loss

But many states only require one screen, experts note

THURSDAY, Feb. 24, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Repeat testing of newborns within 10 days of delivery may be the best way to catch hard-to-spot hearing difficulties and to rule out false diagnoses, according to a new study.

Right now, many states require only one such test, conducted four hours after birth.

"It's vital to re-screen newborns shortly after birth, then again after 24 hours," Dr. Angela Shoup, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, and leader of UT Southwestern's communicative and vestibular disorders program, said in a prepared statement.

"Newborns may not pass the initial hearing screening for a variety of reasons, including debris," the researcher explained. "Debris in the external ear canal and fluid in the middle ear, improperly placed earphones and/or electrodes can prevent them from hearing at full capacity and result in a wrongful referral to an audiologist."

Shoup's team conducted a four-year study involving more than 15,000 newborns. They found that pre-discharge retesting of babies who failed the standard Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) -- usually conducted four hours after birth -- reduced the number of false-positive results.

They also found that providing outpatient hearing retesting for babies at the birth hospital increased the number of babies who were brought in for follow-up. That retesting should ideally take place when babies are about 10 days old, they said.

The report appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

More information

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more about hearing screening.

SOURCE: UT Southwestern Medical Center, news release, February 2005
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