By Kaylie Duffy, Associate Editor
Approximately 25 years ago, Natus Medical identified these
problematic statistics and sought to develop hearing screeners for newborns. Currently, about 97% of all newborns in the
U.S. are screened for hearing loss. Formerly, only babies with
high risk were screened.
“Although the incidence of hearing loss or deficits in newborns
is about [0.3%], the impact on a baby’s life is tremendous,”
says Lisa Burque, Natus Medical senior marketing director. “If
you catch hearing loss in the newborn period of a baby’s life,
you could start intervention early, and that child could have the
vocabulary equivalent to a normal hearing baby.”
Since its inception, the company has expanded its portfolio
of newborn medical devices; however, research and devel-
opment of newer, safer hearing screeners is still important.
In late 2013, engineers at Natus Medical were preparing to
launch the Echo-Screen III newborn hearing screener. The
screener incorporates transiently evoked otoacoustic emis-
sions (TEOAE), distortion product otoacoustic emissions
(DPOAE), and auditory brainstem response (ABR) capabilities.
The otoacoustic emissions (OAE) technology delivers clicks
or tone bursts through the newborn’s ear canal via a
probe inserted into his or her ear. The child’s cochlear
will then create sound waves in response to the
noises, which are measured and recorded by the ear
Both OAE and ABR technologies are fully automated
in the Echo-Screen III, meaning the device will provide
automatic pass or refer results and fixed screening
parameters. A refer result indicates that further testing
Similarly, the ABR technology sends soft clicking
sounds to the newborn’s ears through an ear probe
or headphones, but sensors placed on the child detect
responses to the sound from his or her brain and send
them to the device for analysis. Typically, each test
mode takes two minutes.
Just as Natus Medical prepared for the product’s
launch, its marketing team requested that the product
be free of Bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical that has
been used to make lightweight, hard polycarbonate
plastics and epoxy resins since the 1960s. Today, more
than a billion pounds of BPA are produced annually in
the United States.
Despite its widespread use in food and drink packaging, medical devices, and automotive parts, there has
been concern among hospitals and clinics that BPA
may have unwanted health and environmental risks.
The new Echo-Screen III newborn hearing screener incorporates
transiently evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE), distortion
product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), and auditory brainstem
response (ABR) capabilities. (All image credit: Eastman Chemical)
Screening newborn infants for hearing loss is a relatively new practice that didn’t
become common in the United
States until the mid-to-late 1990s.
Before its introduction, children
often weren’t diagnosed with
congenital hearing loss until they
were three years of age or older. Late
hearing impediment identification
can translate into delayed speech
and language development.