How are hearing screenings done?

Hearing screening identifies infants at risk for hearing loss as early as possible. The technology used for the hearing screening is completely safe and reliable. It will not hurt your baby. The screening involves placing a very small microphone in your baby’s ear and soft sounds are played. The ear’s response to these sounds is measured and analysed. In some cases, three small electrodes are placed on your baby’s head to measure the brain’s response to sounds. Both tests are very reliable, only take a few moments, and you will get results right away.

Most babies will pass the hearing screen. This means their hearing is fine at that time.

In a very small number of babies who pass hearing screening, a hearing loss may develop at a later age. It is therefore important to watch for signs of hearing loss as your baby grows.

Some babies will receive a refer result. This means your baby needs follow-up hearing screening. It does not always mean that your baby is deaf or hard of hearing. A slight cold or stuffiness, earwax, fidgeting, or even noise in the room can cause a refer result.

However, because finding those babies who are deaf or hard of hearing is so important, all babies with a refer result must have an additional hearing screen. This may take place in the hospital or a community-based setting. If your baby needs another hearing screen, it is very important that you keep the appointment.

Expanded hearing screening

The expanded hearing screen includes both the hearing screen that happens in a hospital or community-based setting and the hearing loss risk factor blood spot screen. You can consent to the hearing screen alone, or the expanded hearing screening.

The hearing loss risk factor blood spot screen is performed by Newborn Screening Ontario on a dried blood spot already taken for the purposes of newborn blood spot screening (heel prick test). It can detect cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections. CMV is a common virus. When a pregnant woman is infected there is a risk of infection of the baby. When this happens it is called congenital CMV (cCMV) infection. Most infants with cCMV will not have signs or symptoms, however, some can develop hearing loss because of the infection. This is one of the reasons expanded hearing screening is being offered.

The hearing loss risk factor blood spot screen will be performed, with your consent, when there has been an Infant Hearing Program recommendation that your baby see an audiologist for a hearing assessment.

Once completed, all results will be sent to the Infant Hearing Program. If the results require follow-up (a positive result means that CMV was detected) they will also be sent to your closest Follow-Up Centre Infectious Diseases clinic. Someone from Newborn Screening Ontario or the Infectious Diseases clinic will contact you directly to talk about the results and arrange an appointment.

For additional information about the hearing loss risk factor blood spot screen, please visit:
Newborn Screening Ontario

Watch your child for signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss can cause delays in speech and language development. It's never too early to help your child learn language.