What is the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP)
Permanent hearing loss can significantly affect a baby's development. Finding out early can give these babies a better chance of developing good speech and language and communication skills. It will also help babies make the most of relationships with their family or carers from an early age.
The newborn hearing screen helps to identify babies who have moderate, severe and profound deafness as early as possible. This means parents can get the support and advice they need right from the start. The programme aims to screen babies within four to five weeks of birth.
One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. This increases in babies who have spent more than 48 hours in intensive care. Most of these babies are born into families with no history of permanent hearing loss.
What do we do?
HRCH Newborn Hearing Screening Service provides NHS hearing screening at birth for the South West London (SWL) sector and surrounding areas.
Our SWL newborn hearing screening team conducts hearing screening at the following hospital sites:
St George’s Hospital
St Helier Hospital
The Portland Hospital
When is the newborn hearing screen performed?
Ideally we aim to complete the screen in the first four weeks, but it can be done at up to three months of age.
You will be offered the hearing screen for your baby before discharge from the hospital or invited to attend an outpatient clinic appointment. Please refer to the ‘useful documents’ section which outlines where the community clinics are held.
What does the screen involve?
The first screen is called AOAE (automated oto-acoustic emission). For this screen a small soft tipped earpiece is placed in your baby’s ear and a soft clicking sound is presented. When the ear receives sounds, the inner part (cochlea) responds and this can be picked up by the screening equipment.
It is not always possible to get clear responses from the first screen. This does not necessarily mean your baby has a hearing loss. It can mean:
Your baby was unsettled when the screen was performed
There was background noise
Your baby has fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear – this is very common and passes with time.
Your baby has a hearing loss
In these cases your baby will be offered another screen. This may be at the same as the first screen or another type called the AABR (automated auditory brainstem response). This involves placing 3 small sensors on your baby’s head and neck. Soft headphones are placed over your baby’s ears and soft clicking sounds are played. This screen takes between 5 and 15 minutes.
If your baby has a clear response in both ears then they are unlikely to have a permanent hearing loss. However, newborn hearing screening does not pick up all types of hearing loss and children can develop hearing loss later on. It is important to check your child’s hearing as they grow up. The checklist in your baby's personal child health record (red book) tells you how to do this.
You can also download two checklists: one that tells you what sounds your baby should make, and another that tells you what sort of sounds your baby should react to.