The NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) offers all new parents the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing screened within the first few weeks of life. It is a Public Health England commissioned service that is part of the Antenatal and Newborn Screening Programmes.
Approximately, 1-2:1000 babies are born with a hearing loss and this rises to 1:100 for babies who spend time in special care. The main aim of the programme is to identify moderate, severe and profound hearing impairment in newborn babies, as they are at most risk of related developmental problems. The hearing screening test will allow those babies who do have a hearing loss to be identified early. This early identification is known to be important for the development of the child, and means that support and information can be provided to parents at an early stage.
It is important to screen all babies, even if no-one in your family has a hearing loss. Most babies born with a hearing loss are born into families with no history of hearing loss.
The programme automatically offers all new parents the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing screened, and the screen should be completed where possible while shortly after birth.
For those babies that are born at home, or those whose screening may not be completed whilst in hospital, we can arrange an appointment at one of our dedicated outpatient clinics for the hearing screen to be completed.
Outpatient clinics are held at the following sites:
- Lincoln County Hospital
- Pilgrim Hospital, Boston
Due to the restrictions placed upon NHS services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we unfortunately have had to reduce the number of sites where we could offer outpatient screening services. We are working hard to resume our outreach services at Gainsborough, Grantham, Skegness and Spalding and hope to be able to provide updates on this soon.
What does the newborn hearing screening test involve?
A trained Hearing Screener will carry out the hearing screening test. They will 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.
If the AOAE screening test does not show a clear response from one or both ears, your baby will need a second hearing screening test. A lot of babies need to have a second screening test and this doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has a hearing loss. Some common reasons, other than hearing loss, for having a second hearing screening test are:
- Your baby may have been unsettled at the time of screening
- There may have been background noise when the screening test was carried out
- Your baby may have fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear after the birth. This is very common and will pass with time
Most babies are found to have no hearing loss after the second screening test but it is still important that your baby has this screen. This second screen is known as the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) screening test. This involves three small sensors being placed on your baby’s forehead, neck and shoulder. Then, some soft headphones that are specially made for babies, are placed over your baby’s ears and a series of clicking sounds are played.
The hearing screening equipment tells us how well your baby’s ears respond to sound. The AOAE screening test takes a few minutes, whereas the AABR screening test can take between five and 30 minutes. You can stay with your baby while the screening tests are done.
You will be able to choose to have this second test while you are still on the Maternity ward, or to return for an appointment in one of our outpatient clinics. Your Screener will discuss the options with you and help you make the best decision for your baby.
Why has my baby been referred for an appointment at the audiology clinic?
If the second screening test does not show a clear response from one or both of your baby’s ears you will be referred to your local Audiology department. They will carry out special tests to measure your baby’s hearing.
Again, this often happens and does not necessarily mean your baby has a hearing loss. There may be a number of other reasons why the second screen could not get a clear response from one or both of your baby’s ears. Further tests by an Audiologist will give you better information about your baby’s hearing.
Further information about the NHSP can be obtained from:
Useful contacts for United Lincolnshire Hospitals Newborn Hearing Screening Programme
- Megala Chandran
(Chief Audiologist/Newborn Hearing Screening Manager) – (01522) 573684
- Boston Screening Team (01205) 446316
- Boston Audiology Department (01205) 446478
- Lincoln Screening Team (01522) 597666
- Lincoln Audiology Department (01522) 573254