What is newborn hearing screening?
According to the NHS, one to two babies in every 1,000 are born with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. This increases to about one in every 100 who have spent more than 48 hours in intensive care.
The NHS newborn hearing screening programme aims to identify permanent hearing loss as soon as possible, to make sure your baby's condition doesn't have an impact on their:
- ability to develop spoken language and communication skills
- educational achievement, confidence and social skills.
The screening should take place in the first few weeks after birth in hospital, at home, in your GP's surgery or at a local health clinic. If your baby's hearing has not been screened, ask your health visitor, midwife, local audiology department or GP to arrange an appointment.
What does newborn hearing screening involve?
Newborn hearing screening doesn’t hurt and will usually be carried out while your baby's asleep or settled. You can stay with your baby while the screening test is done.
The test, which is known as an automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) test, measures the function of the cochlea (hearing organ) in the inner ear. It only takes a few minutes and gives results immediately. Both ears are checked.
Sometimes, a second test will be done called the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) test. Your baby will need to be asleep for this test, which usually takes between five and 15 minutes. It’s safe, painless and the results will be available immediately. Again, you can stay with your baby.
If the second test doesn’t produce a clear response from either ear or both ears, your baby will be referred to an audiology department within four weeks for more in-depth tests.
What happens if my baby has hearing loss?
Your local paediatric audiology service will arrange for your baby to have hearing aids fitted if that’s what you want.
Or, if your baby has severe to profound hearing loss, they may be referred to a specialist cochlear implant centre to determine whether they could benefit from a cochlear implant.
The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) provides support and information and can put you in touch with other parents of children who are deaf or have hearing loss in your area.
Find out more about newborn hearing screening and the support you can get if your baby has hearing loss from our factsheet Newborn hearing screening.