Newborn Hearing Screening

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 and part of the family of antenatal and newborn screening programmes.

The NHSP vision is to improve outcomes for every child through a high quality hearing screening programme, safe and effective assessments and family-centred intervention. The main aim of the programme is to identify moderate, severe and profound hearing impairment in newborn babies.

The programme automatically offers all parents of babies born or residing in Lincolnshire the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing screened shortly after birth, ideally before they are four weeks old (meeting national standard – Key Performance Indicator – NH1) Any babies who do not complete their screening in hospital are offered an outpatient appointment at their closest clinic.

Outpatient clinics are held at the following sites:

Lincoln County Hospital: medical physics department, Monday mornings and alternate Thursdays.
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston: ENT suite, Friday mornings.
Grantham & District Hospital: antenatal clinic, Tuesday mornings.
Gainsborough: Sure-start children’s centre, Hickman Street, Gainsborough, alternate Thursday mornings.
Skegness: Sure-start children’s centre, Brunswick Drive, Skegness, alternate Monday mornings.
Stamford: Health clinic, Ryall Road, Stamford, Thursday mornings as required.

All babies who refer from the screen are offered an appointment for a diagnostic hearing test within four weeks of the screen (meeting national standard – NH2).

Early identification, via the programme, gives babies a better ‘life chance’ of developing speech and language skills and of making the most of social and emotional interaction from an early age.

There is a national leaflet produced by the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) entitled ‘screening tests for you and your baby’ which will be given out in the antenatal period. Your screener will also be able to provide you with a copy of this, after the birth should you require one. Different language versions can also be found on the website and from your screener.

Further information about the NHSP can be obtained from http://hearing.screening.nhs.uk

A video explaining the screen can be viewed from http://hearing.screening.nhs.uk/nhspvideo

Useful contacts for Lincolnshire NHSP

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why screen my baby’s hearing?

Your baby will be offered a series of routine health checks in the first few weeks of life. This will include a hearing screening test. One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears.

It is not easy to identify that a young baby has a hearing loss. The hearing screening test will allow those babies who do have a hearing loss to be identified early. 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.

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.

What does the newborn hearing screening test involve?

Your baby will be offered the hearing screening test within the first few weeks of life. The hearing screen is usually done before you leave the maternity unit. 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 please call the local newborn hearing department (01522 573684) to arrange an appointment. The aim of the programme is to screen all babies before the age of four weeks, screening can be undertaken up to the age of 12 weeks but becomes increasingly difficult the older baby becomes.

Outpatient clinics are currently run at the following venues:

Lincoln County Hospital: medical physics department, Tuesdays and alternate Thursdays.
Pilgrim Hospital, Boston: ENT Suite/ Audiology Department at  (Fridays and occasional Wednesdays)
Antenatal Clinic , Midwifery Managed Unit at Grantham and District Hospital (Wednesdays)
Gainsborough Children’s Centre (Surestart), Market Arcade, Gainsborough (Alternate Thursdays)
Stamford Health Clinic, Ryhall Road, Stamford (when needed – Tuesday or Thursday dependant on room availability)

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.

How can I help prepare my baby for the hearing screening test?

The screening test is easier to carry out if your baby is asleep. Don’t worry if your baby will not settle. Your hearing screener will understand that it is difficult to get a young baby to sleep. The following may help your baby to settle during the test:

If possible, feed your baby shortly before the hearing screening test,
Ensure you have the things you may need to make your baby comfortable and happy.

When will I get the results of the hearing screening test and what do they mean?

The results will be given to you at the time of the screening test and will be recorded in your baby’s PCHR (Red Book). If you have any concerns or questions about your baby’s results contact the hospital where the screening test was done. If the screening test shows a clear response from both of baby’s ears this means that your baby is unlikely to have a hearing loss. The Newborn Hearing Screen Programme is a very reliable way of detecting hearing loss early.

Children can develop or acquire a hearing loss later on so it is important to check your child’s hearing as they grow up. Even if your baby gets a clear response from their hearing screening test, you can use two checklists, on pages 19 and 20 in your PCHR (Red Book) to help you assess the development of their hearing. They are for ‘Reactions to sounds checklist’ and the types of sounds your child should make as they grow older ‘Making sounds checklist’.

If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing you can discuss them with your health visitor or family doctor. Your child’s hearing can be tested at any age.

Why does my baby need a second hearing screening test and what does it involve?

If the 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 the second screen. This is because babies who have a hearing loss will usually react to some sounds. If your baby does have a hearing loss it is important to find out as soon as possible. The second screening test may be the same as the first screening test, the Automated Otoacoustic Emission (AOAE) screening test. Your baby may also have another type of screening test. This 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. Soft headphones, 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 test is done.

Why has my baby been referred for an appointment at the local audiology or medical physics 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 (at Boston) or medical physics department (at Lincoln). 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. You will be given a leaflet to read explaining ‘Your Baby’s Visit to the Audiology Clinic’ for more information.

I have been told my baby has a hearing loss. What does this mean and where can I get further information and support?

Parents and families may have many questions when they find out their baby has a hearing loss. Each baby’s hearing loss will be different and your audiologist will be able explain the sounds your baby can hear and which sounds it may be difficult for them to hear.

You may be told that your baby has a mild hearing loss. This means that your baby’s hearing is slightly below the level considered normal – your baby has a good degree of useful hearing but may have difficulty hearing quieter sounds. Further information to help you understand what this means is available in the leaflet ‘Your Baby has a Mild Loss’.

If you are told that your baby has a unilateral hearing loss, it means that your baby has a hearing loss in one ear. Further information to help you understand what this means is available in the leaflet ‘Your Baby has a Hearing Loss in One Ear’.

Alternatively you may be told that your baby has a bilateral hearing loss, which means that your baby has a hearing loss in both ears. Further information to help you understand what this means is available in the leaflet ‘Your Baby has a Hearing Loss’.

Parents react in many different ways when they first find out that their baby has a hearing loss and can experience a wide range of emotions. Whatever your feelings it is important that you acknowledge and share them. There are a variety of organisations that can provide support for you and your baby. Your audiologist will refer you and provide you with further information about support in your local area or alternatively you can contact the National Deaf Children’s Society Free phone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (10am to 5pm, Monday-Friday) or send an e-mail to helpline@ndcs.org.uk or visit the website www.ndcs.org.uk. Their experienced advisors can help answer any questions you may have and put you in touch with other parents with deaf children through a network of local support groups.