All babies in New Zealand are now routinely screened in their first few weeks of life to ensure that they hear well.
What is newborn hearing screening?
Newborn hearing screening checks whether your baby hears well. All New Zealand babies can have the screening free of charge. Babies born in hospital are usually offered screening before going home and babies born at home can be screened at a hospital or health clinic. The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme aims to screen babies before they leave hospital or at least by one month of age.
Why screen newborn babies?
It is estimated that up to 120 New Zealand babies are born every year with moderate or more severe hearing loss. Most have no family history of hearing loss. Early screening is important because if your baby has a hearing loss, finding it early will help their language, learning and social development. Before the Programme – which was introduced progressively across New Zealand between 2007 and 2010 – hearing loss was often not picked up until a child was around four years old.
What happens when the babies are screened?
A small soft tipped earpiece is placed in the baby’s ear and a computer shows how the baby’s ears respond. The screen is not painful and most babies sleep right through it. Some babies may need a second screen because the first screening did not show a clear enough response in one or both ears. Babies who do not have a clear result after a second screen are referred to an audiologist for further tests.
What happens if hearing loss is found?
If a hearing loss is detected, a raft of services and support are available. These include on-going audiology services and medical support as required. Ministry of Education advisers help families/whānau access education resources, and assistance that help a child reach their full potential.
Since July 2007, approximately130,000 babies have been screened as part of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, and of those screened, more than 100 babies have been diagnosed with a hearing loss and received further support and assistance.
More information about newborn hearing screening is available on the NSU’s website www.nsu.govt.nz.