Newborn Hearing Assessment
The Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening (UNHS) program is a state-wide service which provides free hearing screening for all newborn babies.
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Your baby's hearing screening
In the first few weeks of life your baby will have several routine health checks. One of these checks is a hearing screen. Two in every thousand babies will experience hearing loss.
When will the hearing screen take place?
You will be offered the free hearing screen in the first few weeks of your baby’s life. In most cases this will occur before your baby is discharged from hospital.
If your baby does not receive a screen before discharge, the hospital will give your details to the Child and Family Health Service (CaFHS) who will contact you to arrange an appointment. If your baby has not received a screening by four weeks of age, please ring CaFHS on 1300 733 606.
What does the screening involve?
The hearing screen is completed while your baby is asleep. In South Australia an Automated Auditory Brainstem response (AABR) is used. The midwife or screener will first apply a small amount of gel to your baby’s forehead and above and behind each ear. An earphone and three sensors will then be placed over your baby’s ear and they will hear a soft clicking sound. The small sensors will record your baby’s hearing nerve responses to the sounds. The screen will be conducted on each ear separately. The screen takes between 5 and 20 minutes to complete.
When will I know the result?
The screener will provide you with the results immediately following the test. Your baby will receive either a ‘pass’ or ‘refer’ result for each ear. These results will be documented in your baby’s personal health record (i.e. Blue Book). The results will also be recorded on the newborn hearing screening database. All personal health information is confidential.
What do the results mean?
If your baby receives a 'pass result' for both ears, the screen is complete and your baby is discharged from the screening program. A pass result in both ears means that your baby has adequate hearing to support speech and language development at the time of the screen.
If your baby is at risk of developing a hearing loss, they will be referred to the Children’s Audiology Service for hearing monitoring. This will be discussed with you at the time of the hearing screen.
If your baby receives a 'refer result' for one or both ears, a repeat screen is required. There are several reasons a baby can refer on their first hearing screen. These include:
- the baby was unsettled during the hearing screen
- there was fluid or a temporary blockage in the baby’s ear after the birth
- the baby has some degree of hearing loss.
If your baby receives a ‘refer’ result on one or both ears at the first screen, they will be referred for a follow-up hearing screen. This will occur in the community and be conducted by a Child and Family Health Service (CaFHS) nurse. If your baby receives a second ‘refer’ result they will be referred to the Children’s Audiology Service for a diagnostic hearing assessment. This will be completed by a paediatric audiologist, who is a specialist in hearing testing.
What if I decline the screen?
If you do not wish for your baby to have a hearing screen, you need to inform your midwife or healthcare professional. This will be documented so you will not be contacted further for a newborn hearing screening.
Who can I contact if I have concerns about my child’s hearing?
Hearing can change over time. Even if your baby passes their hearing screen, it is still possible for your child to develop a hearing loss later in life. It is important to monitor your baby’s responsiveness to sounds and their speech and language development. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing or speech and language development in the future, contact your family doctor.
The service is coordinated by the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN) Children’s Audiology Service.
If you have any questions, please contact Children’s Audiology Service – Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Program on (08) 8303 1585. Open 8.00am – 4.00pm Monday to Friday.