The most important time for learning language is in the first three years of life. The sounds that surround a baby are quickly recognized and the process of imitating them begins.

That is if the baby hears them.

This is the reason newborn hearing screenings are a normal part of the birth experience (well over 90 percent of babies receive hearing screening by age 1 month). The sad fact is that about 3 out of every 1,000 babies will have hearing loss issues in one or both ears. The sooner any problems are discovered the more quickly solutions can be explored and implemented.

Two tests are administered.

An otoacoustic emissions (OAE) procedure ensures that vital parts of the inner ear respond correctly to auditory stimulus. Sounds are played through earphones and the corresponding “echoes” from sound waves bouncing off crucial parts of the inner ear are measured. This is a test designed to ensure the mechanics of the inner ear are in working order.

The other test is the auditory brain stem response (ABR). Electrodes are placed on a baby’s head while sound is played through earphones. The test is meant to confirm that the nerves carrying signals from the inner ear to the brain are functioning normally.

The tests are not intrusive, and many babies sleep through the whole thing.

If there appear to be any issues, then an appointment with a hearing professional should be scheduled as soon as possible — preferably before the baby is 3 months old. The goal is for any treatment to commence before the child is 6 months old.