Newborn Hearing – Identifying Problems Early

South Carolina operates an early hearing detection and intervention program called First Sound. This is how it works:

  • South Carolina hospitals that birth an average of 100 or more babies per year screen each newborn baby for hearing and send the results to DHEC.
  • Infants who do not pass the initial hearing screening in the hospital are referred for rescreening; this should be performed by the time the infant is one month old. The rescreening may be done at the birth hospital or at an audiologist's (hearing specialist) office.
  • Infants who do not pass the rescreening are referred to an audiologist for a diagnostic hearing evaluation.  The evaluation should be performed before the baby is three months old..
  • Infants who are confirmed as deaf or hard of hearing are referred to BabyNet for early intervention services.  Deaf or hard of hearing infants should begin early intervention by six months old. 

DHEC also tracks infants for three years if they pass their hospital screening but are at high risk for developing hearing loss.

If your infant has not been screened for hearing loss or if you are a health care provider wishing to refer an infant to First Sound, contact us at (803) 898-0708. Fax: 803-898-4453

Facts about Newborn Hearing Loss

  • Hearing loss occurs in newborn infants more frequently than any other health condition for which newborn infant screening is required. Studies show that hearing loss occurs in approximately 2-4 out of 1,000 babies.
  • Hearing is vitally important to development of language skills. Infants begin developing speech and language from the moment they are born. Eighty percent of the language ability of a child is established by the age of 18 months.
  • Without early hearing detection and intervention programs like First Sound, hearing loss is often not identified until children are 18 months to 3 years of age.
  • Children with hearing loss who do not receive early intervention and treatment may require extensive (usually publicly funded) special education services.
  • Early detection of hearing loss in a child and early intervention and treatment has been demonstrated to be highly effective.
  • Universal screening/detection of hearing loss in infants before three months of age, with appropriate intervention no later than six months of age, is endorsed by the major speech-language-hearing associations in the U.S. as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics. They also recommend that such screening be performed in all birthing hospitals and coordinated by state departments of health.

How are infants screened?

Hearing tests can be performed while the baby is asleep or quiet and do not require the infant's participation. Sounds (tones or clicks) are played through small earphones and responses to the sounds are automatically measured by electrodes or a probe microphone. Tests are quick, painless, and non-invasive.


National Resources

South Carolina Resources