Newborn hearing test

A newborn hearing test is a simple test that looks for a clear response from both of your baby's ears.

The test's usually done in the first few weeks after your baby's born. It may even be done before you leave the maternity unit.

Why test your baby's hearing?

By having the test you'll find out early if your baby's hearing's affected. This is important for your baby’s development and means that support and information can be offered from an early age.

Most babies who have hearing loss are born into families that haven’t experienced this before. Even if you can see that your baby's responding to sounds, it’s still very important to have the hearing screen.

Babies with hearing loss can still respond to some sounds.

Are there any risks?

There are no associated risks with your baby having the newborn hearing test. However, if your baby has hearing loss and it isn't detected early, this may cause delays in getting the early support, advice and treatment needed.

How the hearing screening test's done

The newborn hearing screening test is carried out by a trained health professional. It can be done in one of 2 ways, either:

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

A computer will then measure how well your baby’s ears respond to clicking sounds.

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

Test results

You’ll usually get the results as soon as the screen's finished. If you have any worries or questions, speak to your health professional at any time.

Clear response

If the hearing screen shows a clear response from both ears:

  • your baby's unlikely to have hearing loss
  • you'll be given a list of the sounds your baby should respond to as they grow older

No response in one or both ears

If the hearing screen doesn't show a clear response from one or both ears, your baby may have hearing loss.

Other reasons your baby might not show a clear response are:

  • they may have had fluid or a temporary blockage in the ears after birth
  • they may have been unsettled during the screen
  • there may have been background noise

Two to 3 babies in every 100 screened don't show a clear response.

What if the test shows an unclear result?

If the hearing test doesn't show a clear response from one or both of your baby's ears, a repeat hearing test and/or further tests will be carried out. The health professional taking care of you will give you further information to explain this.

If you're referred for further tests, you'll see a hearing specialist at the audiology department for assessment. It’s very important you attend this appointment as they'll confirm if your baby has hearing loss.

One to 2 babies in every 1,000 have hearing loss in one or both ears.

Further information in other languages and formats

Public Health Scotland have produced leaflets explaining the newborn hearing test. These explain why the test's offered and what happens if the test finds a problem with your baby's hearing.


Last updated:
06 October 2023