Why does my baby need a hearing test just after birth?

We know that one or two babies out of every 1,000 are born in the UK each year with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears, and this can seriously affect their development.

Finding out about this early gives these babies a better chance to interact with their families and build good language and communication skills.

Your baby’s hearing test

In most hospitals throughout the UK, you will be offered a simple hearing screening test for your baby shortly after birth or within the first  few weeks. This can however be done up to three months of age, so do check with a health professional.

The test takes a few minutes. It is called an automatic otoacoustic emission test (AOAE). A small earpiece is inserted into the baby’s ear and a soft clicking noise is played. When the inner ear picks up the sound, it will send information back to the machine, and be registered. The next ear is then tested.

Sometimes the machine doesn’t register a clear response and that could be due to:

  • Background noise
  • Your baby being unsettled
  • Birth fluid blocking the ear canal
  • Hearing loss

In these cases, your baby will be offered another test with the same or a different machine.

The second machine test is called an automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) and involves 3 small sensors being placed on your baby’s head and neck. Headphones are placed over your baby’s ears and the soft clicking sound is played.

This test takes between five and 15 minutes and does not hurt or cause your baby any harm.

You usually get the results straight away, and if the result is clear then it is unlikely that your baby will have a permanent hearing loss at this stage.

However, these tests don’t pick up all types of hearing loss, and your baby may still develop hearing problems at a later age. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, discuss this with a health professional.

If the screening test identifies a problem with your child’s hearing, you should be given an appointment to see a hearing specialist within four weeks of getting the results.

Useful links

ChatHealth logo

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

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