Newborn hearing screening is available free-of-charge to all babies born in Australia. It is one of the routine health checks performed after a baby is born and is quick and painless way to check the hearing of a baby.
Hearing screening indicates whether or not a baby’s hearing should be further investigated.
As soon as the screen is completed, the parent/guardian will receive one of the following results for their baby:
– a clear response was obtained to sound made in the baby’s ears. It is very unlikely that the baby currently has a hearing loss that would affect early speech or language development.
– there was not a clear response to sound on the first screen. Another hearing screen will be arranged.
– a clear response to sound was not recorded during two hearing screens. The baby will be referred to diagnostic audiology for further hearing testing.
There are pathways in place in each State for the screening, diagnosis and management of babies diagnosed with hearing loss.
What does the hearing screen look like?
The hearing screen is usually carried out at the bedside while you and your baby are still in hospital. In some cases, the screen will take place during an outpatient visit.
Frequently asked questions
What happens during the hearing screen?
A piece of equipment called Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) will be used to perform the screen.
A screener will come to your bedside, or your infant will be brought to a quieter room. You are welcome to stay with your baby throughout the screen.
Once your baby is settled, or preferably asleep, the screener will attach three soft sticky pads to your child’s forehead. The screener will also put earmuffs or earplugs to your baby’s ears. A clicking sound will be presented through these earpieces to your baby. The AABR automatically measures your baby’s response to these sounds.
When will I find out the result of the screen?
If you are present at the screen, the screener will explain the result of the screen to you straight afterwards, or soon after if you were not there. The result will also be recorded in your Child Health Record (Yellow Book).
What happens if my baby doesn’t respond clearly to sound in the screen?
If your baby does not respond clearly to the screen, the screening unit will show a ‘refer’ result. If it is your baby’s first screen, we will try again later the same day or the next day. If you are due to go home, you can return at a later date for the re-screen.
This result could mean one of several things:
- Your baby might have fluid in their ear or a temporary blockage at the time of the screen, or
- There might be too much background noise, or
- Your baby was too unsettled during the screen
- Your baby might have a hearing loss.
If your baby receives a refer result on the second screen as well, we will refer you for some further hearing testing.
What happens if my baby is referred for more testing?
We will arrange for your baby to have a diagnostic assessment at an audiology clinic. During the assessment an audiologist (specialist in hearing) will perform further hearing tests which will give a more complete picture of your baby’s hearing.
It is really important to find out how well your baby hears as early as possible. Then, if you need it, you and your child can receive the best advice and support right from the start.
How likely is it that my child has a hearing loss in both ears?
Results from hearing screening programs in other states indicate that around one child in every thousand (1/1000) has a significant bilateral (in both ears) hearing loss at birth.
Can my baby still have a hearing screen even if we were discharged early?
Yes, we will make an appointment for you to return as an outpatient to have your screen
Can I have a screen too?
If you are concerned about your own hearing you should make a time at an audiology clinic to have a hearing test. The screening equipment is not suitable for adults.