Up to 170 children are born with a significant hearing loss in New Zealand each year, and more than half of them have no family history of hearing issues or other risk factors.
The newborn screening programme checks all babies at birth before they leave hospital, or you can arrange with your GP or midwife for the test to be done at your local health clinic or hospital. Your baby can be screened up to three-months old.
The test is free and takes between 15-20 minutes and is usually done when your baby is settled or sleeping. It involves soft sounds played through headphones, with a computer showing how the baby’s hearing responds.
If the screening doesn’t show strong enough results, it could be because your baby was unsettled, there was too much noise in the testing room, there was fluid in your baby’s middle ear, or your baby has a hearing loss, and the test will be done again.
If necessary your baby will be referred to an audiologist for diagnostic testing and if this shows there is a hearing loss, the audiologist will talk to you about treatment options and what help is available.
Even if your baby passes the hearing test, it is important you monitor your child’s hearing as they develop. Our hearing health checklist will help you do this.
More detailed information about the newborn hearing screening programme can be found on the Ministry of Health website.
Unilateral Hearing Loss
A unilateral hearing loss means that your child’s hearing has been found to be different in each ear. On one side, your child’s hearing is at a level considered within the normal range. On the other side, your child’s hearing is below the normal range.
There are different levels of hearing loss. They are described as mild, moderate, severe or profound. A unilateral loss can be at any of these levels.
Mild Hearing Loss
A mild hearing loss means that your child’s hearing is slightly below the level that is considered normal. Your child’s hearing specialist (audiologist) will be able to explain which sounds your child can hear and which sounds your child may have difficulty hearing.