Frequently asked questions
All 20 District Health Boards now offer newborn hearing screening free of charge to every eligible baby born in their area, whether they are born in hospital or at home.
If you do not get offered newborn hearing screening for your baby, ask your LMC to refer you to your local DHB Newborn Hearing Screeners.
- In New Zealand up to 170 babies are born each year with a significant hearing loss.
- Over half of babies found to have a hearing loss have no family history of hearing loss or other risk factors.
- Without screening it is difficult to detect hearing loss in babies until speech and language development becomes delayed.
- Early detection of hearing loss will help parents and families/whānau and professionals to assist the baby to develop good communication and language skills.
Babies born in hospital will be offered screening before going home in most cases. For babies who are not screened in hospital or are born at home, hearing screening will be available either at the hospital or at a health clinic as an outpatient. Trained hearing screeners will carry out the screening. Ideally your baby will be settled or asleep during the screen.
It is strongly recommended that your baby is screened because of the benefits that newborn hearing screening offers. However you may decline screening. It is your choice.
Your baby will be screened using aABR (Automated Auditory Brainstem Response): soft sounds are played through an ear cushion. The response from your baby’s hearing nerve is picked up through special sensors that are placed on your baby’s head. The screen is painless and will not harm your baby. The aABR test will take 10-20 minutes if your baby is settled or sleeping.
6. If my baby is not screened or if I decline screening in the hospital, can my child's hearing be checked at a later time?
Yes. If you have any concerns about your child's hearing at any age, talk to your Lead Maternity Carer, GP, Well Child provider or early childhood teacher.
The screen is designed to pick up moderate to profound hearing loss. It will not necessarily pick up mild losses. It is important that you continue to monitor your child's hearing. If you have concerns about your child's hearing you should talk to your Lead Maternity Carer, GP, Well Child provider or early childhood teacher.
When your baby passes the hearing screening, it means that at the time of the screening your baby’s hearing was good. However some types of hearing loss can develop during childhood. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, talk to your Lead Maternity Carer, GP or Well Child provider. A checklist “Can my baby hear?” can be found in the Well Child/Tamariki Ora, Health Book.
There are certain instances when babies are at more risk than usual of developing hearing loss after their initial screen. These babies will be followed up with appointments with an audiologist if necessary. Reasons for this include certain infections, some treatments and medications.
Some babies need another screen because the earlier screening did not show a strong enough response in one or both ears. This may be because:
- your baby was unsettled
- there was too much noise in the testing room
- there was fluid in your baby's middle ear
- your baby may have a hearing loss.
The repeat screen will be done either before you and your baby leave hospital, or as an outpatient appointment. It is the best way to be sure about your baby's hearing. You will be told the results straight away.
- your baby may or may not have a hearing loss
- your baby will be referred to a hearing specialist (audiologist) for a range of diagnostic tests.
These tests are able to give a more thorough assessment of your baby's hearing levels.
The audiologist will do a range of diagnostic tests to test your baby’s responses to low-,
middle and high-pitched sounds. The audiologist will explain to you in detail each of your baby’s hearing tests and what the results may mean.
In most cases the outcome will be explained to you at this appointment. It can be helpful for both parents or a support person to be present.
Most babies will record a clear response to the tests carried out at audiology. However, there is a possibility that your baby has a hearing loss.
Overall, about three babies in every 1,000 are born with a significant hearing loss in one or both ears in New Zealand.
Current estimates indicate that if all of the approximately 64,000 babies born annually in New Zealand are screened, up to 1,200 babies will be referred for an audiological assessment, and of those babies 80 to 120 babies will be found to have moderate or more severe hearing loss requiring early health intervention and special education services.
- Parents and families have many questions when they find out their baby has a hearing loss. Finding out that your baby has a hearing loss early means that you and your baby will get advice and support right from the start.
- Each baby’s hearing loss will be different. Your audiologist will explain the sounds your baby can hear and which sounds may be difficult for them to hear.
- The audiologist will talk with you about the services and support available to your family and how these can assist you with your baby's additional needs. Together, you can make a plan.
- It is best that this planning begins soon after a diagnosis of hearing loss. This will help your baby develop good communication and language skills.
- Your audiology department will continue to provide you with on-going support.
- Ministry of Education advisors on deaf children have training and experience in supporting young children with hearing loss and their parents and families/whanau. They:
- offer support in fostering the development of language through listening, speaking and visual communication
- are a key link to services and resources, including opportunities to meet with other parents and people who have hearing loss
- provide information on the full range of options for developing communication and information on devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive listening technology
- provide information about developing New Zealand sign language and assistance to keep an eye on your baby's progress.
A wide range of organisations and resources are available to provide support for you and your baby. Some recommended sites and resources can be found here