Hearing is extremely important for the development of speech, mental and emotional development. Early detection of genetic hearing disorders combined with adequate action and treatment can alleviate the consequences of the disorder in the future. For this reason, the majority of maternity hospitals perform screening tests to detect hearing disorders as early as possible. Our hospital began to do so in February 2003.
The test, the otoacoustic emission (OAE), is done after new-borns’ second day of life. The test is performed by placing a probe into the patient’s inner ear (the organ of Corti). Sounds are generated in the probe, and their responses are recorded. The device shows if the recording is adequate. The quality of the test depends on restlessness of the child, outer noise or partly impassable auditory canal (a very narrow auditory canal, the presence of amniotic fluid). In these circumstances, the test should be repeated.
If the recording isn’t adequate, which happens at about one per cent of new-borns, the child is referred to further audiology tests. Approximately 1 of 1000 infants are born with a genetic hearing disorder.
This test does not enable detecting the disorder’s progress nor does it predict potential later hearing disorders.
Alenka Pleško Mlakar, MD