Newborn hearing screening: 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, either:
- before they're discharged from hospital
- at a hospital outpatient clinic (for example, if you had a home birth)
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 of your baby's ears, your baby will be given a second screening test. This will usually happen in hospital before they're discharged.
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.
The vast majority of babies born in Ireland have no problems with hearing. But 1 or 2 babies in every 1,000 will be diagnosed hearing loss in one or both ears.
Identifying a hearing problem early improves the long-term outcomes for children and their development. It also means that support and information can be provided to parents at an early stage.
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 he or she:
- was born with congenital atresia (narrowing of the ear canal)
- suspected or confirmed bacterial meningitis
- spent more than 6 months in the special care baby unit and is not well enough to be screened
- is receiving end-of-life care
In most of these cases your baby will instead be referred to audiology services for a diagnostic hearing test.
If your baby is receiving end-of-life care, a decision will be made with you on a case-by-case basis.
If your baby misses their test
If your baby should have been tested, but was not, you can arrange a test by asking your public health nurse for an appointment.
The test can be done up to 3 months of age.