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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 02:49 GMT
Hearing tests for all newborns
Baby being tested. Picture: Jason Lock photography
All babies will be screened shortly after birth
All parents in England will be offered the chance of a hearing test for their newborn baby shortly after its birth.

Over 1,600 babies will be screened every day as part of the NHS New-born Hearing Screening Programme as it is rolled out across the country.

That programme checks babies' hearing using equipment that measures how well their ears respond to sound.

The new technology reduces the possibility of missing hearing impairment or deafness at birth.

For too long, families have faced long periods of worry and uncertainty if they began to suspect that their child wasn't hearing them
Angela King

It enables hearing to be tested at an earlier age than the traditional, less reliable, Infant Distraction Test.

And it identifies hearing loss and impairment on average two years earlier than previous methods.

Professor Adrian Davis, director of the screening programme, said: "Over 1,000 babies are born each year in England with deafness or hearing loss in one, or both, ears.

"It is essential, therefore, that this is identified early. The programme does just that, enabling parents to access the appropriate support for their babies as quickly as possible."

Professor Al Aynsley-Green, Children's Commissioner for England, said it was important to give every child the support needed to achieve their full potential.

He said: "The newborn hearing screening programme will help to achieve this by giving hundreds of babies born with hearing impairment and deafness the opportunity to develop communication skills and bond with their parents from an early age."


Angela King, a senior audiology specialist for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, welcomed the national roll-out.

She said: "For too long, families have faced long periods of worry and uncertainty if they began to suspect that their child wasn't hearing them.

"If your baby is deaf, it's important to know as soon as possible so that you can give them the best possible chance to develop language and communication skills and be fully involved in everything around them.

"It is also vital that, in each part of the country, information and support services for families are ready to swing into action once it has been identified that a baby is deaf."

The decision to implement a national hearing screening programme for newborn babies was made in 2000 following research and advice from the UK National Screening Committee.

The programme tests babies' hearing using an Automated Otoacoustic Emissions test (AOAE).

The test takes only a few minutes and is completely safe and painless.

A second test, known as the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test, may also be offered if the AOAE test does not show a strong response in one or both ears.

Babies who do not show strong responses to either the AOAE or AABR tests are referred to the local audiology department for further tests

Hearing tests for all newborns
28 Jun 00 |  Health

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