Universal Newborn Hearing Screening
Why Does My Baby Need To Have A Hearing Screen?
About one in 1,000 babies in Singapore has significant hearing impairment at birth and is at risk for delay in speech, language, intellectual, social and emotional development.
Each detection followed by appropriate intervention will minimise the harmful effects on the child's development. Without a screening test, this impairment may not be detected until much later.
Thus, the aim of the screening test is to detect hearing loss early in order to facilitate intervention and treatment as quickly as possible (preferably by 6 months of age).
When And How Will My Baby's Hearing Be Screened?
The screening test is performed within the first few days after birth, and usually prior to the discharge of your baby. It is performed by trained staff and takes about 15 - 30 minutes. The screening test is safe and will not hurt your baby in any way.
Depending on the hospital, the machine used to test your baby's hearing may be an Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) instrument or an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) instrument.
For the OAE, a small ear probe is placed at the opening of your baby's ears. The instrument makes clicking sounds and the probe listens to the responses (echoes) from the baby's ears.
For the AABR, 3 jelly tab sensors are applied to the head. A soft earphone delivering clicking sounds will evoke responses from your baby, which will be recorded by the instrument.
The staff will inform you of the result after the test.
What Does It Mean If My Baby Passes The Screen?
This means that your baby's hearing function is normal at the time of testing. However, in some babies, hearing impairment may develop gradually as a result of recurrent ear infections, genetic factors or chronic illnesses. Hence, you need to be vigilant and continue to monitor the behavioural responses of your child's hearing ability according to the checklist provided in your baby's Health Booklet. If you suspect at any time that your child has a hearing problem, you should consult your doctor.
What If My Baby Does Not Pass The Screen?
It does not necessarily mean that your baby has a hearing impairment, but further investigation will be needed. If your baby does not pass the repeat screening, a referral will be made to the ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialists, who may decided on further confirmatory tests.
It is very important to attend these appointments so that any hearing impairment can be diagnosed early and precious time is not lost to help your child develop normally.
Other Useful Information
If you need more information about the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, please call the programme coordinator at tel: +65 6394 1894 (Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 15:00). For change of appointment with the Audiologist, Neonatologist or ENT specialist, please call Central Appointments at tel: +65 6294 4050.
Follow-up hearing test are done at Audiology Department, ENT Centre, Level 1, Children's Tower (next to Children's Specialist Clinics).