Te whakamātau i te rongo a te pēpi hou Universal hearing screening for newborns

Newborn hearing screening checks if your pēpi hears well. If they have hearing loss, finding it early will help their language, learning and social development. This is important for tamariki as well as their whānau. All eligible pēpi can have newborn hearing screening for free.

We recommend screening for hearing loss for all newborn pēpi

We recommend your pēpi is screened because of the benefits newborn hearing screening offers. You can decline screening — it is your choice. If your pēpi is not screened, or you decline screening and have concern about your child's hearing at any age, talk to your LMC, healthcare provider, Well Child provider or early childhood teacher.

While most pēpi will pass the newborn hearing test, up to 140 are born each year with hearing loss. If we find hearing loss early, we can work with you and your pēpi to create the best plan to maintain their language, social, and emotional development.

Māori and Pacific pēpi are more likely to have hearing loss than other pēpi and tamariki in Aotearoa.

Hearing screening test

The test shows how your baby's ears respond to sound. The test is simple and safe , and will not cause your pēpi any discomfort. It usually takes around 10 to 20 minutes.

The test picks up moderate to severe hearing loss. It is not designed to pick up mild hearing loss.

Your pēpi might have this test before leaving the hospital. For the best outcomes, we recommend that your pēpi completes their screening by the time they are 1 month old. But, babies can be screened up to 3 months of age.

How the test is done

screening device on newborn head

While your pēpi sleeps, a trained hearing screener will place small sensors on your their forehead, as well as above and below the ear. They will put a cushion over 1 ear at a time and play a soft clicking sound.

The sensors will pick up the response from your baby's hearing nerve. The test measures whether:

  • the ear is responding to sound
  • the brain is responding to that sound.

A computer measures the response. In some cases, if the screener is not able to get a clear result, your pēpi may need a second screening test. This could be because:

  • your pēpi was unsettled
  • there was too much noise in the testing room
  • there was fluid in your baby's middle ear
  • your pēpi may have hearing loss.

In some cases, your pēpi may be referred to an audiologist (a hearing specialist) after their screen. This means that more investigations are needed to determine if your pēpi has a hearing loss.

If you need to see an audiologist

If your pēpi needs to see an audiologist for diagnostic tests, we recommend that they have their first appointment by the time they are 3 months old. This will give a more thorough assessment of their hearing levels. If the audiologist diagnoses your pēpi with hearing loss, clinical and educational supports can start by the time they are 6 months old.

Referral to an audiologist — HealthEd (external link)

Where newborn hearing screening is offered

All districts offer screening to all babies, whether they are born in hospital or at home. Your LMC can refer you if you are not offered screening. 

Newborn hearing screening services (internal link)

Hearing loss over time

You may be advised to bring your pēpi back to the audiologist for more testing when they are a little older. This is because there are some types of hearing loss that develop over time.

Some pēpi may be more at risk of developing hearing loss in later childhood. These include pēpi who:

  • had a māmā with certain infections during pregnancy
  • were born with certain congenital or inherited conditions
  • had some types of infections
  • needed certain medicines or treatments in their first few days
  • were born with some congenital and inherited conditions
  • had treatment in neonatal or special baby care for certain conditions.

If this is the case, you will be referred to an audiologist for follow up.

If your pēpi has hearing loss

You may have questions if you find out your pēpi has hearing loss. Finding out early means you can get advice and support right from the start.

Each baby's hearing loss will be different. Your audiologist will explain:

  • the sounds your pēpi can hear
  • which sounds may be difficult for them to hear.

They will talk to you about the services and support available, and how they can help you with your baby's extra needs.

Mild hearing loss

A factsheet for parents whose children have been diagnosed with mild hearing loss.

Mild hearing loss [PDF, 2.5 MB]

Unilateral hearing loss

A factsheet for parents whose children have been diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss (hearing has been found to be different in each ear).

Unilateral hearing loss [PDF, 2.5 MB]

Helping your pēpi

If your pēpi has hearing loss, the kind of support you and your pēpi will be offered depends on your baby's hearing levels. The audiology department will continue to provide you with ongoing support.

It might include:

  • support and education about hearing loss and helping your tamariki
  • information on devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive listening technologies
  • different ways of communicating, like sign language
  • genetic counselling.

If you have any concerns

Even if your pēpi passed newborn hearing screening, they could still develop hearing loss later. Talk to your midwife, doctor, Well Child provider or early childhood teacher if you are worried about your baby’s hearing.

You can talk to them about your concerns at any time — they are there to help you and your pēpi.