NHSP - Public Information

NHSP - Public Information

The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme aims to identify moderate, severe and profound hearing impairment in newborn babies.

The programme automatically offers all parents, of children born at Cork University Maternity Hospital, the opportunity to have their baby's hearing tested shortly after birth. 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. 

What is screening?

Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition.

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 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 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 hearing loss are born into families with no history of hearing loss.

What Does The Newborn Hearing Screening Test Involve?

Your newborn baby will be offered the hearing screening test at Cork University Maternity Hospital soon after birth. The hearing screen is usually done before you leave the hospital.

  • A trained hearing screener carries out the hearing screening test.
  • The screener places 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 this echo.
  • 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?

We will give you the results at the time of the screening test. If you have any concerns or questions about your baby's results contact the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme on 021-4545001. If the screening test shows a clear response from both of your baby's ears this means that your baby is unlikely to have a hearing loss. The Newborn Hearing Screening 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 a checklist to help you assess the development of their hearing. Click here to open the checklist giving sounds that your baby should react to, and for the types of sounds your child should make as they grow older. If you have any concerns about your child's hearing you can discuss them with your public health nurse or general practitioner (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 you baby has the second screen. This is because babies who have 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.

  • A trained hearing screener carries out the hearing screening test.
  • The screener places three small sensors on your baby's head and neck.
  • Soft headphones, specially made for babies, are placed over your baby's ear 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 5 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 (hearing) 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 the Audiology (hearing) Clinic. An audiologist (a person who specialises in hearing) 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 several 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 (a person who specialises in hearing) will give you better information about your baby’s hearing. Click here to read the leaflet ‘Your Baby’s Visit to the Audiology Clinic’ for more information.