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Newborn hearing screening

Photo: Your baby's hearing will be tested soon after they are born

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

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.

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, a test called the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test is done and if your baby fails this test it may either be repeated or an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test will be carried out.

Some reasons your baby might fail the first test which don’t mean they have a permanent hearing loss are:

  • background noise during the test
  • your baby was unsettled
  • your baby has fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear.

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 tests may be needed.

Tests include:

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

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 further 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.

If your baby has been diagnosed as deaf, we're here for you. Visit our webpage I’ve just found out my baby has a hearing loss for information and support.