Pregnancy Guide

Newborn hearing test

The newborn hearing screening test helps to identify babies who have permanent hearing loss as early as possible. This means parents can get the support and advice they need right from the start.

One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with permanent hearing loss in both ears.

This increases to about 1 in every 100 babies who have spent more than 48 hours in a Special Care Baby unit.  Most of these babies are born into families with no history of permanent hearing loss.

Permanent hearing loss can significantly affect a baby's development. Finding out early can give these babies a better chance of developing language, speech, and communication skills.  It will also help babies make the most of relationships with their family or carers from an early age.

When is the newborn hearing test done?

If you give birth in hospital, you may be offered a newborn hearing test for your baby before you are discharged.  If your baby does not have a screening test in hospital you will be offered an appointment in a local community clinic.  Most babies who have needed Special Care are tested in hospital before going home.

You will be contacted by Newborn Hearing Screening Wales for community clinic appointments.  Ideally, the test is done in the first four weeks.  If you are not offered a screening test, ask your health visitor or GP to contact Newborn Hearing Screening Wales on the following telephone numbers:

North Wales: 01978 727005

Mid and West Wales: 01656 754085

South East Wales: 02920 743568


How is the newborn hearing test done?

A small soft-tipped earpiece is placed in your baby's ear and gentle clicking sounds are played.  It's not always possible to get clear responses from the first test.  This happens with a lot of babies, and does not always mean your baby has a permanent hearing loss. It could mean:

  • your baby was unsettled when the test was done
  • there was background noise
  • your baby has fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear

In these cases your baby will be offered a second test.  This may be the same as the first test, or another type of test.

In the second type of test three small sticky pads are placed on your baby's head and neck.  Soft headphones are placed over your baby's ears and gentle clicking sounds are played.  This test takes between 5 and 20  minutes.

This second type of test is offered to all babies who have needed special care for more than 48 hours.

These tests will not harm your baby in any way.

Does my baby have to have the newborn hearing test?

It's highly recommended, but you don't have to accept it.  If you decide not to have the hearing screening test, you will be given checklists to help you check on your baby's hearing as they grow older.  A hearing test at nine months will be offered.  If you have any concerns, you should speak to your health visitor or GP.

When will we get the results?

You will be given your baby's hearing screening test results as soon as the test is done.  If your baby has a clear response in one or both ears, they are unlikely to have a permanent hearing loss that will affect speech and language development.  If your baby has a clear response in one ear you will be given information about a choice of follow up arrangements

However, the newborn hearing test doesn't pick up all types of permanent hearing loss.  Children can also develop permanent hearing loss later on, so it's important to check your child's hearing as they grow up.  If you have any concerns about your child's hearing, tell your health visitor or GP.

What does it mean if my baby is referred to a hearing specialist?

If the screening test results do not show a clear response from one ear for well babies and both ears of special care babies an appointment will be made with a hearing specialist at an audiology clinic.  Even if this happens, it doesn't necessarily mean your baby has a permanent hearing loss.

A hearing specialist should see you within four to eight weeks of your baby's hearing screening  test.  It's very important that you attend the appointment in case your baby does have permanent hearing loss.

The appointment will usually take about one to two hours.  This includes time to settle your baby.  If possible, feed your baby shortly before the hearing test.  Make sure you have the things you may need to keep them comfortable and happy.

The tests will not hurt or be uncomfortable for your baby, and you will be able to stay with your baby while the tests are done.  You may want to take your partner or a friend or relative with you to the appointment.

The tests look similar to those used for your baby's screening tests, but give more detailed information about your baby's hearing.

The hearing specialist will be able to explain the results at the end of the appointment.  They will explain what the results mean for your baby's hearing and whether any further tests are necessary.


Last Updated: 08/11/2017 13:24:36
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website