Newborn Hearing Screening Program

A specially trained volunteer or staff member will test your baby’s hearing before your baby’s discharge from the Maternity Unit. The State of California requires that hospitals provide a hearing screening for all newborn babies.

Importance of screening your newborn for hearing loss

Good hearing is essential for the normal development of speech and language. The ability to speak and understand language develops mainly between birth and age 3. Without a newborn hearing screening, hearing loss may go undetected for several years and may affect your child’s speech and language skills.

How the newborn hearing screening is performed

The hearing screening is performed using an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) device.

  1. Three sensors are placed on your infant’s skin. An earphone is placed in each ear.
  2. Soft clicking sounds are played in the earphones
  3. Your infant’s brain activity is analyzed

The screening is quick, easy, painless and reliable. It usually takes only a few minutes. It must be done while your baby is asleep or in a very quiet, relaxed state.

Screening results

The AABR will provide a “Pass” or “Refer” result.

A Pass result means no additional hearing tests are required at this time, unless there are any risk factors or concerns for hearing loss. You will receive a green card that explains the screening results and future milestones for your baby’s speech, language and hearing.

Please note that this screening does not detect select frequency hearing loss. It also does not screen for hearing loss that may occur later in your baby’s life. We recommend further audiologic testing if you have any concerns about your baby’s hearing and/or speech and language development after you leave the hospital.

A Refer screening result means your infant needs further audiologic testing. Reasons for a Refer result include:

  • Wax or vernix (birth fluid) in the ear canal
  • Fluid behind the eardrum
  • Hearing loss
  • Your infant may have been too active to obtain a reliable result

You will receive a yellow card that explains the screening results and information for a follow-up appointment. Every effort will be made to rescreen your baby prior to discharge. If the rescreen is not done before you go home, we will make an outpatient hearing screening appointment with our Pediatric Audiology department. Please call the Newborn Hearing Screening Program at (650) 498-7991 to schedule an outpatient screening appointment if one was not made before your discharge from the hospital.