A guide to help parents of newly identified children who are deaf or hard of hearing understand the resources and services available in Nebraska.
Nebraska Hands & Voices is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Nebraska families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Approximately one to three babies out of 1,000 will be born deaf or hard of hearing. Most are born to parents with normal hearing. Parents of babies born deaf or hard of hearing often have many questions and want information about how to help their baby.
Infant Hearing Act has set the goal of having every baby's hearing screened during birth admission. If your baby does not pass this screening, another hearing screening prior to one month of age is recommended. Babies start to learn speech and language very early. If childhood deafness is not detected early, a baby will miss a very critical period for speech and language development. It is important for you to know exactly what your child can hear.
Hearing loss is an invisible condition and can be hard for parents to identify because children will react to social and environmental clues, and respond as if they can hear. A child may be able to respond to loud noises, however, even a mild hearing loss can impact your child's ability to develop normal speech and language skills.
Hearing loss can also happen as your baby gets older. If your baby has risk factors for late onset or progressive hearing loss, it is important to have your baby's hearing checked often.
If your baby does not pass the newborn hearing screenings, a complete hearing evaluation before three months of age is needed to determine if your child has hearing loss in one or both ears.
All babies should receive a newborn hearing screening before leaving the birth hospital, or within the first 30 days of life for babies born outside of the hospital.
Click here for a list of testing facilities in Nebraska.
There are two tests which may be used to screen a baby's hearing. Both are comfortable and are done while the baby is sleeping.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
Soft clicks are played through earphones into the baby's ears. Band-Aid like sensors placed on the baby's head, measure the brain's response to these sounds. The machine compares the baby's response to an expected range of responses. If the baby's response falls in this range, the baby passes the hearing screening. ABR screens for all types of hearing loss.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
Soft beeps and clicks are played into the baby's ear through a small earphone which has a microphone in it. The microphone measures a response in the ear canal like an "echo". If an "echo" response is measured, the baby passes the newborn hearing screen. If there is no "echo" response, the baby does not pass the hearing screen. OAE screens for most types of hearing loss, but cannot rule out neural hearing loss.
Newborn hearing screening is not mandated by Nebraska State Law, however, it is the standard of care that all infants born in Nebraska receive a newborn hearing screening. This is due to the high incidence of childhood deafness in infants and young children, and the fact that over time, research has shown that early intervention services can make a big difference in the educational and social/emotional outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.