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Explore Screening/Audiological assessments in more detail :

Newborn Hearing Screening

Newborn hearing screening helps to identify those babies who are born with a permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. This means that these babies and their families can get the help and support they need as soon as possible and this has been shown to improve their communication and language development. Please visit this National Health Service (NHS) - UK website page which can provide you with further information about the process in the UK, which is similar in other developed countries. In England, the screening programme began fully in 2006. The result of the screening programme there has reduced the median age of hearing aid fitting to 82 days. Recent research has also reported on the performance and characteristics of the newborn hearing screening ([51]).

Newborn hearing screening uses two tests, shortly after birth. These are usually carried out in the hospital where the baby was born, within a few hours of birth, or may be carried out in the community based clinics or at home. One test is called Otoacoustic Emissions Test (OAE) and the other is the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response Test (AABR). Please visit this National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) - website page for useful further information and downloadable information sheets on family support resources.

The Otoacoustic Emissions Test involves placing a speaker and microphone in the baby’s ear and playing a clicking sound. A healthy inner ear (cochlea) will respond and the microphone will pick up the echo. Sometimes the test will need to be repeated if a clear signal was not received. If after two attempts a clear echo is still not received the baby will then be referred for the AABR test.

The AABR test is objective, non-invasive and painless. It involves putting small headphones on the baby’s ears or ear pieces into the ear canals and playing clicking sounds. Small electrodes on the baby’s head measure the responses of the brain to the stimulation and the audiologist can alter the stimulation, and observe the responses on the computer. If no clear responses are observed, the baby will be referred for further investigation – only a small percentage require further audiological investigation.

Between one and two babies per thousand will be found to have a hearing loss in one or both ears. The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme for England has found about 1/1000 babies with a bilateral permanent hearing loss. For parents of newborn babies, the process can be very stressful, and it can be helpful to speak to other families – on-line or directly. The parents’ forum at www.ndcs.org.uk is a useful place for discussion and you will find a range of thoughts at www.handsandvoices.org about newborn hearing screening.

Two DVD’s: Luterman Lore and Parent to Parent by David Luterman, from The Ear Foundation, offer insights into the experiences of a range of parents. For clips, please also see SoundSpace Online - The family.