Newborn Hearing Screening

About the Service

Newborn Hearing Screening involves testing babies hearing within the first few weeks of life. It is now carried out across the country, which means that every baby born in England will have their hearing tested shortly after birth.   Evidence suggests that the earlier a child’s hearing impairment is identified and an appropriate intervention programme introduced, the greater the chances they will develop better language skills and enjoy benefits in speech, social and emotional development.

When will the screening test be done?

The screening test will be done in the first few weeks of life. It may be done before leaving the maternity unit or at an appointment at a local health clinic or hospital, one or two weeks after birth.

What will happen when my baby is screened?

There are two types of screen used. One is the Oto-acoustic emission (OAE) screen. This involves placing a small soft tipped ear-piece in the outer part of the baby’s ear and playing quiet clicking sounds. In a hearing ear, the organ of hearing (the cochlea) should produce sounds in response, which can be recorded on a computer.   The second type of screen involves placing small sensors on the baby’s head and neck and then presenting a quiet clicking sound, through soft head-phones especially designed for babies.   Both screening methods usually only take a few minutes and can be done when the baby is asleep. The screening test does not hurt and is not uncomfortable for the baby. It will be carried out by a trained hearing screener.

What does it mean if the screening test doesn’t show a strong response from one or both ears?

This often happens and does not necessarily mean that the baby has a hearing loss. There are a number of reasons why it might be difficult to check a baby’s hearing. The baby may have been unsettled during testing. They may have fluid or a temporary blockage in the ear after birth. There may have been background noise when the test was carried out.

Newborn Hearing Screening Locally

Newborn Hearing Screening began at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on 1st July 2005.  In the first year, six babies were identified as having hearing problems, who would not have been identified until a much later age, using the previous system of hearing checks. This has allowed the management of their hearing losses to begin at a much earlier age.

Further Information and Resources

Information and resources can be found at the NHS Choices website. Information regarding children and hearing problems can be found at the The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) website.