This overview of the NHS newborn hearing screening programme (NHSP) explains how a baby’s hearing is tested, and the equipment used for the tests.
Information for the public about newborn hearing screening screening is available on the NHS website.
It is the choice of an individual, with parental responsibility for the baby, whether or not their baby has screening.
Public Health England (PHE) is committed to reducing inequalities and variation in screening participation to help make sure everyone has fair and equal access to screening services.
PHE provides information about data use and patient confidentiality in population screening programmes. Operational guidance is available to support providers of newborn hearing screening services in England.
Newborn hearing screening is offered to all babies in England, ideally within the first 4 to 5 weeks after they are born.
The test can be done for babies up to the age of 3 months.
Condition screened for
Newborn hearing screening aims to identify permanent moderate, severe and profound deafness and hearing impairment in newborn babies.
Finding out early can give these babies a better chance of developing language, speech, and communication skills.
Newborn hearing screening tests
Screening tests for you and your baby explains the newborn hearing screening tests.
Newborn hearing screening always involves the automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) test. Some babies also need a second test, the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) test.
The Newborn hearing screening: care pathways describe when those tests are performed for well babies and babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
The AOAE test involves placing a small soft-tipped earpiece in the baby’s ear, after which gentle clicking sounds are played. The ear response is picked up by the screening equipment. The AOAE test takes just a few minutes.
The AABR test involves placing 3 small sensors on the baby’s forehead, nape of neck and shoulder. Soft headphones are placed over the baby’s ears and gentle clicking sounds are played. The AABR test takes between 5 and 15 minutes.
If the screening test results do not show a clear response in one or both of the baby’s ears, a referral for audiological assessment is made within 4 weeks.
Newborn hearing screening is one of 11 NHS national population screening programmes available in England.
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) makes recommendations to ministers in the 4 UK countries on all aspects of population screening. It ensures that screening provides more benefit than harm, at a reasonable cost to the NHS.
PHE collects routine data to monitor the uptake of newborn hearing screening.
Requests for screening data and research
PHE has terms of reference for NHS population screening programme research advisory committees.
The role of the screening quality assurance service (SQAS) is to:
- assess the quality of local screening programmes
- monitor compliance with standards
- support services with improving quality
- undertake regional level quality assurance visits
The programme specific operating model for quality assurance of the antenatal and newborn screening programmes should be read in conjunction with the operating model for PHE screening quality assurance service and the relevant programme standards.
Workforce: education and training
Education and training resources are available for healthcare professionals working in newborn hearing screening.
There are also more general resources about population screening to support screening professionals in their initial training and continuing professional development (CPD).
Keep up to date
Visit the Public Health England (PHE) screening blog to keep up to date with what is new in the programme, including the latest guidance and good practice. You can register to receive blog updates direct to your inbox.
Follow PHE Screening on Twitter.
Contact the screening team
Contact the PHE Screening helpdesk with any queries about this publication, making sure you include its full title.
Population screening helpdesk
The helpdesk is not for media enquiries and does not have access to screening results. For queries about results, contact your GP or local screening service. Order screening leaflets at www.gov.uk/phe/screening-leaflets.