The hearing of 346 babies taken largely from a neonatal intensive care unit has been tested by otoacoustic emissions and brain stem electric response audiometry. A total of 336 (97%) of the babies have been followed up by hearing tests from the age of 8 months. The otoacoustic emission test has been found to be practical with a mean test time of 12.1 minutes compared with 21.0 minutes for brain stem electric response. An otoacoustic emission was recorded bilaterally in 274 (79%) babies. Twenty of the 21 surviving infants who failed brain stem electric response in the neonatal period did not produce an emission. It is concluded that the otoacoustic emission test would make a good first screen to be followed by the brain stem electric response if no otoacoustic emission was present. There is poor agreement between the test results in the neonatal period and those of the follow up period, however, indicating the need for continuous monitoring of those babies failed by brain stem electric response.
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