Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

​​​​What is Universal Newborn Hearing Screening?

Universal Newborn Hearing Screening is a test to a check a baby's hearing after birth, before leaving the hospital. It is required in the United States and in many other countries.

  • All babies should have their hearing tested before they leave the hospital
  • If a baby is born at home, a hearing test should be completed before he or she is 1 month old.

When a baby fails the screening tests, he or she is referred for more detailed, diagnostic hearing testing. If a hearing loss is found, hearing aids or cochlear implants may be recommended and support services are provided to help families promote the baby’s early language development. These services help babies learn to listen, speak, and/or learn to communicate visually.

Why is Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Important?

It is important to identify hearing loss as early as possible because babies start learning language as soon as they are born. Listening in the first months of life prepares babies to speak. Watching others communicate helps babies learn language. These early steps are building blocks for communication.

  • Babies begin to learn speech and language in the first 6 months of life
  • By their first birthday, babies are already learning what words mean and may use their first words
  • Research suggests that babies who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit from services provided early in life

Babies learn language by listening and watching their families communicate around them. Imagine that a baby has a hearing loss, but no one knows about it. This can lead to slow development of speech and language, leading to later challenges in school.

Hospitals regularly screen newborn babies for a number of conditions, such as genetic disorders. Hearing loss is more common than any other problems or conditions that are screened for at birth. About one to three babies out of every 1,000 will be born with a permanent hearing loss.