Newborn hearing screening information for expectant parents

All babies born in a hospital receive a hearing screening as part of their newborn care.

Frequently asked questions

Your baby will receive a hearing screening before you leave the hospital. You will be given the screening results. If your baby does not pass, an appointment will be made for a follow-up test. It is very important that you keep this appointment.

The following is a list of common questions and answers regarding the hearing screening:

Why screen babies?

Infants who are identified with hearing loss early and receive intervention services before six months of age have better language, speech and social skills than children whose hearing loss is found later. Before newborn hearing screening took place, babies with hearing loss were often identified as late as 2 or 3 years old.

Who performs the hearing screening?

Newborn hearing screening can be done by people who have been properly trained at the hospital or birth center. Nurses, technicians, audiologists, and highly trained volunteers often perform the hearing screening.

How is the hearing screening done?

A special machine shows if your baby responds to sounds. The test is simple and does not hurt. You will get the results before you leave the hospital.

How often do babies not pass a hearing screen?

About 1.8% of babies screened or 1,300 babies a year in Massachusetts do not pass their hearing screen.

If my baby does not pass the hearing screening, does that mean that my baby has hearing loss?

No. A screen looks for signs of possible hearing loss. If your baby did not pass a hearing screen, it means that your baby needs further hearing testing. These tests will give you more information about your baby’s hearing and it is very important to keep this appointment. Your appointment will be made for you before you leave the hospital at a Department of Public Health approved testing center and should happen within three weeks of going home from the hospital. Some babies will not have a hearing loss and others will.

How many babies are identified with hearing loss?

About 220 babies in Massachusetts are diagnosed with hearing loss each year.

Is the hearing screening covered by health insurance plans?

Yes. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of newborn hearing screening. Families that do not have a health insurance plan that pays for newborn hearing screening should call (800) 882-1435 for more information. The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program can pay for the screen if your insurance does not cover it.

Can babies born with hearing loss have parents who hear?

Yes. 90% of babies born with hearing loss have parents who hear. Only about 10% have parents who are deaf themselves.

What services are available for babies with hearing loss?

The Early Intervention Program helps parents of children from birth to three years to recognize and understand their child's special developmental needs. If your baby is found to have hearing loss, services will be available to your family.

If your baby will be born at home

All babies have the opportunity to have their hearing screened.

Your midwife can answer questions about the hearing screening or you can contact the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program.

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