Hearing Screening

Hearing impairment affects a small number of newborn babies each year and hearing tests have been developed which can help identify affected infants at an early stage. NHS boards are responsible for ensuring that screening of all babies is offered and all results are reported to the NHS board for input onto the department of community child health records system. In addition positive results are reported to the consultant paediatrician or audiologist, GP, and the NHS board who will initiate treatment and/or run further testing.

Prevalence, detection and treatment

The prevalence of permanent congenital hearing impairment (PCHI) is approximately 1-2 per 1,000 babies born in the UK. This means that approximately 60-65 babies born in Scotland each year are affected.

All babies are offered the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) test.  UNHS is offered shortly after birth, thus reducing the age at which deafness is confirmed and therefore improving the wellbeing of the child in terms of education and social needs. Positive results are reported to the audiologist and appropriate diagnostic assessments arranged.

There are two types of screening tests. The Automated Otoacoustic Emissions (AOAE) test involves transmitting sounds to the inner part of a baby’s ear, known as the cochlea, through an ear piece placed in the baby’s ear. A healthy cochlea will produce a faint echo. The response to the sound in each ear is recorded. The Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test involves three sensors being placed on a baby’s head. Earphones, which transmit clicking sounds, are placed over a baby’s ears. The baby’s brain activity in response to the sound is recorded. Both screening tests are performed while the baby is settled and are completely safe. Screening tests do not cause any pain or discomfort to the baby.

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