Hearing Screening for Newborns: Why it Matters

Hearing Screening for Newborns: Why it Matters

A hearing test is typically done in newborns before they leave the hospital. This is part of the universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) program. The goal of the program is to catch hearing problems as early as possible. If a hearing problem is identified early, it can be treated or managed sooner.

Why is hearing important?

Hearing is important because it can affect how your child develops. Good hearing is vital for:

  • Speech and language development
  • Learning
  • Social and emotional development

What to expect from the screening

The hearing test is usually done as the baby sleeps. It is short and painless, and takes only about 10 minutes. You will likely receive the results before you leave the hospital. At that time you will be told whether your baby needs another test. Needing another test doesn't mean that your child has a hearing problem. But it does mean that the first test didn't give enough information. Your health care provider can tell you more. Make sure your baby has all follow-up hearing tests as directed.

What if my baby has signs of hearing loss?

If the test shows that your baby has signs of hearing loss, don't panic. More tests will be done to determine if there's really hearing loss. Even if your child has a hearing problem, many of these problems can be treated. Your child's health care provider will work with you to develop a plan to help your baby.

Can my baby pass the test and still have hearing problems?

It's possible for the test to miss a hearing problem. Some problems may not be caught with this screening. And in some cases, problems show up later. So the best thing to do is check whether your baby is meeting hearing, speech, and language milestones as he or she grows. Ask your health care provider for a list of these milestones.

How can I learn more?

Learn more about hearing screening from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


Other online resources you may find helpful include:

  • American Academy of Audiology
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association