Newborn hearing test

Posted by:gulf onJanuary 24, 2016

The hearing screening test allows those babies who have hearing loss to be identified early. About one to two in every 1,000* babies has significant hearing loss so early identification is known to be important for the development of the child. It also means that support and information can be provided to parents at an early stage.

BK6CYA Newborn / new born baby undergoes a neonatal hearing screening test: Automated otoacoustic emissions test.. Image shot 2011. Exact date unknown.

The newborn hearing test is usually done when your baby is asleep or settled.

When will the hearing test take place?

You’ll be offered a hearing screening test for your baby within the first few weeks of their life – from 12 hours old. The hearing test is usually done before you leave the maternity unit. In some areas, it will be carried out at home.

Your midwife or screener will be able to tell you where and when the screening test will take place. If your baby’s hearing is not screened, ask your child health nurse, midwife, local audiology department or family doctor to arrange an appointment.

What does the screening involve?

A trained hearing screener carries out the hearing screening test. They place a small soft-tipped earpiece in the outer part of your baby’s ear, which sends clicking sounds down the ear. When an ear receives sound, the inner part, known as the cochlea, usually produces an echo. The screening equipment can pick up a response. This type of test is called an automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) screening test.

The AOAE screening test only takes a few minutes and does not hurt your baby. The hearing screening test will usually be done while your baby is asleep or settled. You can stay with your baby while the screening test is done.

Another form of testing is the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test. Three separate leads are placed on your baby’s forehead, back of neck and behind the shoulder. A small earphone ‘cup’ is placed over your baby’s ears. This makes a sound and the leads measure the response from your baby’s ears to that sound. As with the AOAE test, this does not harm the baby in any way and is usually done while you are still in the maternity unit.

When will I know the results?

You’ll get the results as soon as the test is finished. The results will be written in your baby’s Personal Health Record book, sometimes known as the ‘green book’ or ‘blue book’ in some states.

What do the results mean?

If the hearing screening shows a clear response from both of your baby’s ears, it’s unlikely that your baby will have hearing loss.

If the test doesn’t show a clear response from one or both of your baby’s ears, your baby will need to have a second test. A ‘refer’ result requires the hearing screen to be repeated within a few weeks. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has a hearing problem.

The initial screen result can be affected by:

  • the presence of fluid or other matter that has entered the ear canal during the birth process
  • temporary middle ear fluid
  • the area where the screen takes place being too noisy or your baby being too restless.

As it is very hard to tell how well a young baby can hear by watching their behaviour, it is important that the hearing screen is repeated.

If a pass result is not obtained in both ears at the follow-up screen, your baby will be referred to a paediatric audiologist to test if your baby has a hearing problem.

If your baby does not pass the follow-up hearing screen in both ears, the audiologist will see your baby as soon as possible. If your baby passes the hearing screen in only one ear, the audiologist will see your baby at about two to three months of age, or sooner if possible.

The audiologist will conduct a comprehensive hearing assessment. If there is a hearing problem, the tests will also show whether it’s likely to be temporary or permanent and your child will receive appropriate intervention or management.

What if I decline to have the test?

Parents may refuse to provide consent for their newborn’s hearing screening. This will be recorded in your child’s Personal Health Record. You will also be asked to sign a form confirming that when the screen was offered you declined.

If you choose not to have your baby screened, you should still be informed about the screen and its importance.

If you are concerned about your child’s hearing or speech and language development in the future, please arrange to have your child’s hearing tested. Ask your family doctor for a referral to an appropriate service for your child’s hearing to be tested. Hearing can be tested at any age.


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