Why is hearing so important?

Photo by: Adrienne Randall The portable OAE hearing screening machine used by Parent Education Professionals with Maine Families home visiting program.

ROCKLAND, MAINE -- Research has shown that babies can hear sounds like a mother's heartbeat, her voice and even music before birth. (Parents as Teachers™) That's one reason why early exposure to language and other sounds are so vital. Another reason is because the auditory system is the most strongly developed of all the sensory systems at birth.

Maine has a Newborn Hearing Program that was started in 2000. Hospitals and other birthing facilities are mandated to tell all new parents about the importance of newborn hearing screenings and to perform these. If the facility doesn't offer these screenings, the staff must help arrange to have one done somewhere else. A newborn hearing screening is the first step toward making certain that a baby will be able to learn language and how to communicate effectively. Since hearing and language are so closely tied together, the earlier a problem can be detected the better is the approach used by many professionals.

There are two different screening methods that are used. One is called AABR, which means Automated Auditory Brainstem Response. The screening method used by Parent Education Professionals with the Maine Families home visiting program is called the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) and measures sound waves produced by the inner ear. The OAE method uses clicks or sounds and the response is measured by a tiny probe that is placed just inside the baby's ear canal, which focuses on the cochlear and middle ear functioning.

Parents enrolled in Maine Families home visiting program may decide whether or not they want to have their child screened by their Parent Education Professional and are asked to sign a release or a refusal form. Enrolled children are generally screened at age one, two and three. If the child passes the screening, another screening is performed at the next stage. If the child does not pass, another screening is performed two weeks later. If at that point the child still does not pass, the parents are asked to follow-up with their child's pediatrician or an audiologist for further assistance.

If you would like more information about Maine Families home visiting program or the Teen and Young Parent Program, please call (207) 594-1980 or toll-free within Maine at 1-877-972-5804.


Parents as Teachers™ http://www.parentsasteachers.org/
The American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.healthychildren.org/
Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention: http://www.maine.gov/
Claudia Williamson and Ruth Griffin, Parent Education Professionals

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