As part of the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, all of Forth Valley’s newborn babies are now offered a routine hearing screen.
The screening is usually done within the first few days of life and most likely before the baby leaves the maternity unit.
It is a very quick test, which is done by a trained hearing screener at your bedside usually while your baby is asleep. The screener uses a machine to measure how your baby’s ears are responding to sounds, which are presented via little headphones. Your baby will not be uncomfortable at any stage of the testing. No anaesthetics are used and you will be able to stay with your baby. You will be given the results immediately, if available.
If we do not obtain a clear response from this first screening test, then this does not mean your baby has a hearing loss. There are many other reasons why your baby might not have passed. Mostly this is due to the baby’s ears still being wet from delivery, but perhaps your baby would not settle or the test conditions were not ideal. You will be offered a follow-up appointment for your baby to be retested. This retest may be carried out before you leave the maternity unit or you will be given an appointment to attend an outpatient clinic.
Many babies need to be referred to their local audiology department for further testing for a number of different reasons. It might be that we need more detailed information because they have received intensive care or their first two screening tests did not show a strong enough response. Being sent for further tests does not always mean that your baby has a hearing loss although there is the possibility. About two or three babies in each thousand are born with some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. Therefore it is important to attend your baby’s screening, even if you think they are responding to sound. Finding out early will mean that your baby receives specialised care from the start. This is important for your baby’s development.
What does the test involve?
For Otoacoustic Emissions, a small insert is placed in your baby’s ear and a computer measures the responses to the clicking sounds, which are presented. For Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), up to four small sensors may be placed around your baby’s head, depending on the type of test carried out. Testing usually takes place in a quiet room so please do not bring any other children to the appointment, as this might provide unwanted distractions. We will not be able to carry out ABR testing unless your baby is asleep, so try not to let your baby sleep before the test. Sometimes feeding and changing your baby just before the test will also help them to settle better. This appointment may take a little while if we have to wait for your baby to sleep. Our audiologists recommend that you allow about 90 minutes for your baby’s ABR appointment. After the test, your audiologist will be able to give you the results (if known), or rebook your baby for further testing. Please see our tests page for more information about individual tests.
Follow up testing
Some babies need to have a further follow up hearing test when they are a little older. This might because they were unwell and required to be given strong medication at birth or perhaps there is a close family history of hearing loss. You will be told if your baby requires this follow up testing. Your appointment is generated automatically between 7-12 months of age, so it is important that you keep us informed of any change of address details.
After the test, your audiologist will be able to give you the results (if known), or rebook your baby for further testing.