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.
Screening is the process of identifying individuals who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.
The process is not perfect and in every screen there are a number of false positives and false negatives.
Evidence and recommendations
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) assesses evidence and makes recommendations to the 4 UK governments about population screening programmes. c The NHS newborn hearing screening programme (NHSP) aims to identify moderate, severe and profound deafness and hearing impairment in newborn babies. Early identification of hearing impairment gives children a better chance of developing speech and language skills, and of making the most of social and emotional interaction from an early age.
The programme offers all parents in England the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing tested shortly after birth.
Operational guidance is available to support healthcare professionals and stakeholders delivering and managing newborn hearing screening programmes in England.
There are clear care pathways for the screening and referral process for NHSP. There are different protocols for well babies, and for those who have spent over 48 hours in SCBU or NICU.
The parents of all babies born or resident in England should be offered hearing screening for their baby within 4 to 5 weeks of birth.
Babies that miss screening should receive it as soon as possible, but not after 3 months of age.
Some babies are not eligible for screening; this may be because the babies have an already-known risk of hearing impairment or deafness, from another condition. Healthcare staff can refer these babies for full audiological assessment without requiring a routine hearing screen.
The programme offers 2 types of test:
automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE)
automated auditory brainstem response (AABR)
Local screening programmes should use approved equipment only.
Watch the NHSP video on NHS.UK for further information about the programme.
Providing prompt care
The earlier a baby is identified as having hearing impairment or deafness, the better the outcomes for the family. The programme aims to screen babies within four to five weeks of birth. This test can take place in hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home by a health visitor.
Education and training
Read about the education and training for healthcare professionals working in newborn hearing screening in chapter 2 of the NHSP operational guidance.
This includes e-learning and other training resources.
The service specification, and supporting documents ensure a hearing screening programme is set up correctly and is meeting the standards set by the national screening team.
All hearing screening providers must meet and report on key performance indicators, or KPIs, set and reviewed by the national screening team.
All requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 are met during the storage and use of the data. No information is published in a form that could identify parent or baby.
All staff that work in, or with, the NHS are required as a matter of law to keep information about parent and baby confidential.
The guidelines on handling patient information explain how to use and safeguard personal data in screening.
Contact the screening programme
For details of NHSP contacts please use the contacts database on the CPD site
For general information please use the helpdesk.
NHS population screening helpdesk
133-155 Waterloo Road
Helpdesk phone number 020 3682 0890
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.