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Newborn Hearing Screening

Screening Facts

  • Language and communication are very important for everyone, especially babies.
  • State law requires babies born in a hospital to be screened before going home.
  • Newborn and infant hearing screenings are simple and safe.
  • Screening is done shortly after birth in the mother’s room or nursery.
  • Babies are only screened up to two times in the hospital before discharge.
  • Babies often sleep through the hearing screening test.
  • Screening time varies, generally around 15 minutes or less.
  • Screening shows risk for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is common in newborns and infants.
  • Finding hearing loss early is important so babies can learn to communicate and develop language skills. 
  • For babies who did not pass the second screening, additional audiological evaluation is needed to learn more about the baby’s hearing. The Pediatric Audiology Services Directory for hearing evaluations Pediatric Audiology Services Directory for hearing evaluations is provided to the parent along with a parent brochure.
  • The hospital will give the parent a written copy of the screening results. Results include the type of screening test, results for each ear and any risk factors for hearing loss. The same information is provided to the baby’s doctor.
  • Our program will contact families of babies who did not pass and have not completed follow up audiological testing by phone and by letters.  The pediatrician is also contacted to help families schedule the follow up audiological testing.

Screening Tests

One or both of the below hearing screening tests may be used to screen a newborn or infant. Both tests look for risk for hearing loss.

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE): This test uses small, soft foam or rubber tips. These tips are placed inside the baby’s ears and the baby hears soft sounds. Small echoes are recorded from the baby’s ear to see if there is good function in the inner ear.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR): This test uses three small patches that are placed on the baby’s face, shoulder and neck; then, small headphones are placed over the baby’s ear or small ear tips are placed in the baby’s ears and the baby hears soft sounds. This test records information from the hearing nerve.   

Screening Results

Pass Results: The baby passed the hearing screening today. Hearing can change as a baby grows, so it is important to monitor the baby’s speech, language, and communication. Sometimes, babies with hearing loss pass the hearing screening test.  Always talk, sing and read to your baby this helps bond with your baby. Babies enjoy stories and songs and this helps babies learn to communicate. If there are any questions about the baby’s hearing, talk to your baby’s doctor and request a more detailed test called an audiological evaluation.

Pass with Risk Factor(s): The baby passed the hearing screening today, but there is a risk factor or risk factors. The risk factor means that there may be a hearing loss that develops later, or your baby may have a higher chance for hearing loss.  It’s important to follow the recommendations for follow-up testing and to monitor your baby’s communication. If a follow-up test is recommended, make sure to take your baby in for the testing.

Non-Pass Results: The baby did not pass the hearing screening, and a more detailed test is needed. The hearing evaluation is important and should be scheduled soon, between 2-4 weeks after discharge, and testing should be completed by three months of age.  The baby will see a pediatric audiologist who can find hearing loss or deafness. This step is important to find hearing loss early.  Sometimes it takes a few appointments to complete the testing.