First blog and first disclosure. In my day job, I am a New Born Hearing Screener in Northland
Newborn Hearing Screening is part of New Zealand’s National Screening Programme, and is offered to all new born babies. It’s free, safe and simple, and takes about ten minutes if the baby is asleep. We can screen babies from one hour old, but hey, unless you are going home and request it, we respect your privacy to bond, and recover from the birth of your baby first. Home birth babies are offered outpatient screening.
After getting your consent(and yes there are a few people who decline for a variety of reasons), we put a little gel above and below your baby’s ear, and on their forehead (the gel is the same used for scans, a bit sticky, but safe, and washes off in water). We then place a soft headphone over baby’s ear.It plays a soft static noise up to 35 decibels. This is the speech sound range we are monitoring. The senses on the headphone picks up through the Auditory nerve if the sound has gone through to their inner ear (a clear response) or not.We give you the screening results straight away.
A small amount of babies do not get a clear response straight away. There are a few reasons why
- baby might still have fluid and debris in the ear passages. This clears naturally over time
- baby became unsettled during screening ( this interferes with the process)
- or, there is a possibility of hearing loss.
If we don’t get a clear response, you will be offered a rescreen, either before you leave the hospital, or at an Outpatients clinic. If the second screen doesn’t get a clear response either, we will then refer you to Audiology for a diagnostic test.We screen to see if sound reaches the inner ear,Audiology tests to see why it hasn’t.
You might be thinking being referred to Audiology is bad news. However, very few babies we refer havean actual permanent hearing loss, only 1 - 3 babies out of a 1000. And the advantage of detecting a hearing loss so early in life is that early intervention makes a big difference to speech and language development. A team of health and education professionals will support you with what is neededto give your baby the best intervention options and assistance.
While we say don’t worry, it is important to keep appointments for screening or referral.We realise that babies don’t always follow our timetable, so a text saying you can’t make it and please reschedule for another time is very much appreciated.
For more information please ask your midwife, or for more in depth information go to: www.nsu.govt.nz/pregnancy-newborn-screening/universal-newborn-hearing-screening-programme
- Lyn Henderson