What is the Newborn Hearing Screening Program?

The program is part of the National Neonatal Hearing Screening Framework administered by the Child and Adolescent Health Service, delivered by Earbus Foundation of WA. The Program aims to screen all babies to identify a Permanent Childhood Hearing Impairment (PCHI). About 2 babies per 1000 born, are born with a PCHI (moderate to profound) which can be in one or both ears. By detecting PCHI early, children and families have a better quality of life through early treatment.

Newborn Hearing Screening

It is possible to screen your baby’s hearing as early as 6 hours after birth. This screening is best practice in many countries as part of routine early health and well-being checks and is best done while your baby is still in hospital.

Why it is important?

Hearing loss may not be obvious in the first few weeks of life. Screening is the first step to detecting and diagnosing hearing loss in babies. Babies need to be able to hear all the soft sounds of speech in the first year of development to start to talk from around 1 year of age. 

With early intervention a child with hearing loss can potentially develop normal speech and language. Early detection of a hearing loss is the key to successful early intervention and support for children and their families.

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When should it be done?

Hearing screening should be performed as soon after birth as practicable. A baby can be screened from 6 hours after birth and is usually screened before being discharged from hospital. 

Babies who are discharged from hospital prior to their hearing screen can be seen as an outpatient.  Parents who decide to home birth can also arrange an outpatient appointment.  Please call 0457 443 042 to make an appointment at our Wembley office. 

Who performs the hearing screen?

Trained Newborn Hearing Screeners perform the screen.  The Screener will discuss the screening process with you prior to the screen and answer any questions that you may have about the screening process.

What do I need to do?

Each baby’s caregiver needs to sign a consent form prior to the screening.

What type of information is recorded?

The Screener records the contact details of the baby’s parent, guardian or caregiver including the home address and contact phone numbers. The Screener also records any risk factors that may be associated with hearing loss.  This information is treated as confidential and in compliance with National Privacy legislation.

What equipment is used to screen?

The Natus Algo3i ® is used to screen all newborn babies in Western Australia.

The Screener attaches 3 sticky tabs and 2 earphones (ear cups) to your baby. The sticky tabs are positioned on your baby’s neck, shoulder and forehead and the earphones nestle around your baby's ears. Your baby hears a number of soft clicking sounds during the screening. Most babies sleep through this process undisturbed.

The Algo 3i screens your baby's hearing pathways and indicates whether further testing is required.


What type of environment is needed to screen your baby?

The best time to screen your baby is when they are asleep and in a quiet place. It is best that electronic equipment such as mobile phones, televisions and radios are turned off during this process. It is also important that people in the room remain quiet. The Newborn Hearing Screener will offer to screen your baby in the hospital room.  The Screener may suggest that you and your baby move to a quieter part of the maternity ward to complete the screen if your room is unsuitable for any reason.

How long does the hearing screening take?

The screen usually takes between 5-15 minutes.

Will the screen hurt my baby?

The screen is non-invasive and most babies remain asleep during the screen.

When will I receive the results?

Results are available immediately. The Screener will discuss them with you after the screen has been completed for both ears. Your baby will either "pass" the screening or will "refer".

What does a "Pass" result mean?

A pass result means that your baby has adequate hearing to develop speech and language at the time of screening.  It is important to remember that sometimes a baby can develop hearing loss during their first few years of life so regular tests are recommended if you become concerned about your child's hearing.

What does a "Refer" result mean?

If your baby has a refer result then a second screen will be undertaken (usually the day after the first screen). There are several reasons why a baby has a refer result in one or both ears. These include:

  • Baby was unsettled during the 1st screening

  • Screening took place in a less than optimal test environment

  • Screening took place when baby's ear canal was not completely clear - this is a temporary condition that will likely resolve over the next few days or weeks.

  • Baby has a hearing loss in one or both ears.

It is important that a baby with a refer result has a second screen.

What does a refer result mean after a 2nd screen?

If your baby refers at the 2nd hearing screen this does not necessarily mean that your baby has a hearing loss.  The second refer result indicates that more specific and detailed testing is required. this assessment is called an Infant Diagnostic Test (IDT).

What is an Infant Diagnostic Test (IDT)?

An IDT assessment is performed by a Paediatric Audiologist and takes a closer look at your baby's hearing. This assessment provides more specific and detailed results.

Earbus Foundation of WA Provide Infant Diagnostic Testing

An appointment for your baby to have their Infant Diagnostic Test carried out by a trained Paediatric Audiologist can be arranged immediately after the screen is completed. The Screener will discuss this with you.

How long will I have to wait for an Infant Diagnostic Test?

Our clinic prefers to conduct full hearing assessments between 3 and 6 weeks of age. An Audiologist can discuss this with you.

How do I prepare for the Hearing Assessment

  • We allow up to 3 hours for the appointment. The test doesn’t actually take that long but it allows time for you to feed, change and settle your baby, if required.

  • Try to ensure that your baby is asleep. This gives the best results. You may need to keep your baby awake 2 hours prior to the appointment.

  • Feel free to bring your spouse, partner, parent or friend along with you to the appointment. This can be challenging to organise but we require your full attention to assist us with testing your baby as well as a quiet test environment.

  • Feel free to bring milk/formula to heat in our microwave, if required.

  • Please bring your Medicare card along with you.

How much does IDT cost?

The ENT and Diagnostic appointments are free with a Medicare Referral. Some overseas visitors are also eligible for free appointments.  For further information, please go to the Medicare website.

What happens if my baby and I cannot attend the appointment?

Please contact the Earbus Foundation of WA on (08) 9388 7485 to let us know you cannot attend.  At least 24 hours notice is requested to allow another family to fill your appointment time and not have to wait unnecessarily for their appointment.

Which hospitals offer Newborn Hearing Screening?

Newborn Hearing Screening is offered in all maternity hospitals in Western Australia. Earbus Foundation of Western Australia provides the service in private maternity hospitals located in Perth and Bunbury. These services include St John of God (Subiaco, Murdoch, Mt Lawley and Bunbury) and Ramsay Health Care Hospitals (Joondalup and Glengarry). Earbus Foundation also works in partnership with St John of God Geraldton Hospital.

What happens if I don’t want my baby's hearing to be screened?

The Screener will ask you to sign a form stating that you don’t want your baby to be screened for hearing loss.

Please be aware that if your baby does have a hearing loss, delayed detection and treatment may result in poor language and learning outcomes.

Hearing Milestones

Use these ‘milestones’ in normal hearing development to monitor your baby’s hearing as he/she grows:

Birth to three months

  • Is startled by or jumps when there is a sudden noise.

  • Tends to stir, wake or cry when there is a loud noise.

  • Quietens when you speak.

Three to six months

  • Turns eyes towards an interesting sound.

  • Appears to listen to voices and other sounds.

  • Awakes easily to sound

Six to twelve months

  • Turns head to soft sounds.

  • Understands “no” and “bye-bye”.

  • Begins to copy speech sounds.

Please contact your GP, Community Child Health Nurse or Paediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s hearing ability or language development at any time, even if your baby passed the newborn hearing screen.

Important facts

  • Hearing loss is more frequently identified than other conditions screened for in newborns.

  • Between 1 and 3 babies per 1000 births will have a hearing loss.

  • Hearing loss is an "invisible" impairment and unless screened for may be difficult to accurately detect.

  • Until the introduction of universal screening the typical age of detection was between 18 and 30 months.

  • From birth to 3 years is the critical window for speech & language development and without adequate hearing this is unlikely to occur.

  • Early detection and intervention results in better speech, language, social, academic and cognitive development