Baby hearing screened at birth

A new service has been launched at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to help the one to two babies in every 1,000 born with a hearing problem.

One to two babies in every 1,000 is born with a hearing loss in one or both ears and identifying an impairment as early as possible can help the baby with communication and social development from a very early age. Help, support, information and advice can be given to the baby’s family to help minimise the effects of any hearing impairment.

As of July 1, all babies born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital or within Norwich, Broadland, Southern Norfolk or North Norfolk Primary Care Trusts, are being offered the opportunity to have their hearing screened at birth. The screen takes only a few minutes and can be done at the bedside whilst baby is asleep.

The Oto-Acoustic Emission (OAE) screen involves putting a soft earpiece in baby's ear and playing quiet clicking sounds. The cochlea (organ of hearing) inside the ear should then respond with sounds that can be recorded and analysed by computer.

It is not always possible to get clear responses, especially if the baby is very young; in these cases the baby’s hearing can be screened using a different method: the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) screen.

The OAE and AABR screening methods are very safe and effective methods to check for possible hearing impairment in babies.

The new service is based at NNUH and more than 90 per cent of babies will be screened before going home. All babies who have been discharged early and home births will be seen by the Hearing Screeners in family friendly community-based clinics at Cromer, Acle, Dereham, Thetford and Long Stratton as well as at the NNUH.

The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme means that babies born on or after the 1st July will no longer receive the Health Visitor distraction test at 8 months.

Chris Cane, newborn hearing screening co-ordinator, said: “It's vital to pick up any hearing problems as early as possible so that the baby and family can receive all possible support. The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme is an exciting and positive development in neonatal healthcare and I am delighted that we are now able to offer this service to our local community

Babies who do not show a clear response from the hearing screen will be followed up by the audiology dept, although this does not necessarily mean that they have a hearing loss. The audiology department will carry out further assessments.”

Monday 11th of July 2005 11:00:52 AM