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Why we screen babies for hearing loss

Newborn hearing screening helps check if your baby has permanent hearing loss in one or both ears.

Almost all babies in Ireland are offered the screening test.

This means that you and your baby can get the support and advice you need as early as possible.

Test within 1 month of birth

Your baby will usually have their hearing screening test in hospital before they're 1 month old.

This will either be:

  • before they're discharged from hospital
  • at a hospital outpatient clinic

If you have a home birth, your public health nurse (PHN) will arrange an outpatient appointment with your local newborn hearing screening service.

If the screening test does not show a clear response from both ears, your baby will be given a second screening test. This will usually happen in hospital before they're discharged.

What happens during newborn hearing screening

Why we screen babies for hearing loss

It's very rare that babies are born with hearing loss. But spotting hearing problems early means we can treat babies more effectively.

Most babies born in Ireland have no problems with hearing. But 1 or 2 babies in every 1,000 will be diagnosed with hearing loss in one or both ears.

The hearing screening test identifies babies with hearing loss at an early stage.

This helps to:

  • improve the long-term outcomes for children and their development
  • provide parents with support and information

That's why we screen your baby when they're less than 1 month old.

We screen about 5,000 babies every month.

If your baby is not offered the screening test

In rare cases, we do not screen some babies for hearing loss at birth.

Your baby may not be offered the screening if they:

  • were born with congenital atresia (narrowing of the ear canal)
  • have suspected or confirmed bacterial meningitis
  • spent more than 6 months in the special care baby unit and are not well enough to be screened
  • are receiving end-of-life care

In most of these cases your baby will be referred for a diagnostic hearing test.

If your baby is receiving end-of-life care, a decision will be made with you about screening.

If your baby misses their test

Talk to your public health nurse if your baby did not have a screening test. They can arrange an appointment if your baby needs one.

The test can be done up to 3 months of age.

Translated newborn hearing screening information

We have 4 leaflets on newborn hearing screening that are available in 13 languages:

  1. Your Baby's Visit to the Audiology Hearing Clinic
  2. Your Baby's Hearing Screening Test
  3. Your Baby's Hearing Screening Test for babies who have received special or intensive care NICU
  4. Childhood Hearing Checklist

Page last reviewed: 19 September 2022
Next review due: 19 September 2025