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Universal newborn hearing screening

Published on 02 April 2020

The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) Programme aims to identify all children born with moderate to profound deafness. The programme supports appropriate assessment and help for children and their families.

We have a coordinating role in the provision of newborn screening programmes. Supporting the NHS boards and the national multidisciplinary groups, we also help develop specifications, protocols and guidance for the programmes to follow. This ensures consistency across the country. Finally, we assist in monitoring and evaluating the programmes.

Who gets newborn hearing screening and how does it work?

One or two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears. Most of these babies are born into families with no experience or history of hearing loss. The hearing screening test is a simple test that will be done within the first few weeks after a baby is born. The test looks for a clear response from both of a baby's ears.

The newborn hearing test is carried out by a trained health professional. It can be done in one of two ways, either:

  • a small, soft earpiece will be placed in the outer part of a baby’s ear
  • three small sensors will be placed on a baby’s head and neck, and a small, soft earpiece or headphone will be placed in or over the baby’s ear

A computer will then measure how well the ears respond to clicking sounds.

The test doesn’t hurt and isn’t uncomfortable. It’s very quick and often takes place while the baby's asleep.

If it's suspected that a baby has hearing loss, then clinical referral to a healthcare expert will occur.

Further information for participants:

Find more information about the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme on the NHS Inform website. This covers details such as:

  • will the hearing test affect a baby
  • what happens with the results
  • leaflets giving clear guidance

Further information for health professionals:

Find screening standards relating to the programme on the NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

NSD contacts

Senior Programme Manager, Lyn Hutchison – lyn.hutchison@nhs.net – 0131 2756412