Newborn hearing screening

Within the first few weeks of life, your baby’s hearing will be tested. The most important thing to note is that both tests are completely painless for the baby.

 Newborn hearing screening programme

Why is the hearing test done so early?

Late identification of deafness can mean a delay in a child’s development of communication and language skills. So, the earlier a baby is identified with a hearing loss, the better.

What does the screening test involve?

Two quick and simple tests carried out in hospital, at home or in a community clinic by specially trained hearing screeners or health visitors. Initially, one test is done i.e. the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test and if the baby fails this test it may either be repeated or an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test will be carried out. All babies who have been in a Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) for 48 hours or longer, or where there is a known risk of them having a hearing loss, will have both tests done.

Depending on the results, further investigation may be required.

Tests include:

  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test
  • Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test
  • Diagnostic assessment of hearing
  • Tympanometry  

Our webpage Different types of hearing tests provides more information on how each of the tests work.

This NHS choices webpage has a video showing two screening tests being done and contains other information about newborn hearing screening that you may find useful.

Further information on how the newborn screening programme works where you live

How the National Deaf Children's Society has helped

We campaigned for screening to be introduced for many years, and now provide information for parents about screening and childhood deafness on behalf of the NHS in England, Wales and Scotland, and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland.

How well are newborn screening services working?

In the UK the newborn hearing screening service is expected to meet a set of Quality Standards that records how many babies are tested, how many are referred to audiology for diagnostic testing and how many babies are identified as deaf following screening.

The newborn hearing screening programmes in England and Wales also publish an annual report that can be downloaded from their websites.

My baby has a hearing loss, what now?

Deaf baby and mum

If your baby has been diagnosed as deaf, we're here for you. Visit our webpage My baby has a hearing loss for information, support and next steps.

Any questions?

You may feel overwhelmed with information and have lots of questions, so please contact our Freephone Helpline for information and support.