Your Guide to Baby's Vision and Hearing

Parents' To-Dos

Time for an Eye Exam

By age 3, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmologists recommend formal vision screening using charts to help identify vision impairment. This will take place in your pediatrician's office, but if there are any special concerns or a strong family history of eye or visual problems, it's a good idea to visit an ophthalmologist.

During the preschool years, in addition to checking the visual acuity of each eye using eye charts for young children, your doctor will be looking for weakness of one of the eye muscles. It is very important to identify and treat this condition early with patching of the good eye to force the weaker eye to work harder. If treatment occurs before age 5 or 6, it can prevent a form of blindness in the weak eye called amblyopia (also known as lazy eye).

Safeguarding Baby's Sight

The best thing you can do to protect your baby's vision is to protect her eyes. Be careful when baby proofing: pad sharp edges on furniture, and keep sharp objects or toys away from your child. Also have your baby wear sunglasses with UV protection when she's in the sun. When your child gets older and plays sports, make sure she wears protective eye gear.

Hearing Loss

Profound hearing loss is found in 1 to 6 children out of every 1,000 births, and the number of infants with less severe hearing loss is probably higher. Fortunately, most states have mandated universal hearing screening for all newborns. Check with your hospital to make sure that this screening is being done. If it isn't performed routinely in your state, ask your pediatrician what your options are. This is important because we now have clear evidence that early treatment with hearing aids (they can be used as early as when a baby is a few weeks old) and cochlear implants (which can be surgically implanted at 1 year) will improve the outcome of hearing and speech for many babies with hearing impairment and even profound deafness.

If your baby fails the otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening, which uses a probe to measure acoustic signals generated in the inner ear, he doesn't necessarily have a hearing problem. In this instance, your pediatrician will refer you to an audiologist, who will use an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test to assess how sound is transferred from the inner ear to the brain. When OAE is followed by ABR, there are fewer false-positive results.

Mary Ann LoFrumento, MD, is an attending physician at Goryeb Children's Hospital, in Morristown, New Jersey, and the founder of simplyparenting.com.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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