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Universal New Born Hearing Screening (UNHS)

Updated: Jun 17

When your child was born, you may have seen that your doctor or your audiologist tested your child’s hearing. This article addresses a few questions revolving around new born hearing screening.

What is Universal New Born Hearing Screening (UNHS)?

Universal new born hearing screening refers to a program where every child born at the hospital is screened for possible presence of hearing loss. Children typically learn by observing their surroundings and imitating those around them. so, they learn to talk by listening to others’ speech around them and imitating those sounds. Hence, hearing is an important part of child’s growth and development. Hearing not only helps in acquisition of speech and language skills, but also aids in development of socio-emotional and psycho-social development of the child. It further helps in child’s academic performance also.

Hearing screening at birth thus is important for early identification of hearing loss.

The 1-3-6 rule!

The Joint Committee of Infant Hearing (JCIH) recommends that every child be screened for hearing loss by 1 month of age, a detailed diagnosis be done to confirm the presence of hearing loss by 3 months of age if the child fails screening, and in presence of hearing loss, intervention program be planned for speech, language and hearing development of the child by 6 months of age.

How is it done?

Once your child is born, a hearing screening will be performed at the hospital. If not done at the hospital, you can also have your child’s hearing tested at a hearing clinic near you. Your audiologist obtains a detailed information about your medical history during pregnancy, and several questions about your child’s birth. This is to determine if your child is inherently at risk of having/acquiring hearing loss or not.

A 2-minute Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) test is done by placing a small probe or earphone into your child’s ear. Your child just has to be asleep or quiet. The test can be done in any quiet room with minimal noise. This test provides information if your child may have possible hearing loss or not. Children at high risk of having hearing loss are also assessed with Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR), to rule out the presence of any problem with your child’s hearing nerve.

What does it mean when my child has passed the screening test?

If your child has passed the test, it means that your child has low probability of having a hearing loss. However, it does not mean that your child will never have any hearing loss. As children grow, they are frequently prone to common cold and ear infections. Ear infections, if not resolved at their early stages could also result in permanent hearing loss. Other genetic and environmental factors also can result in hearing loss. It is therefore important to have your child’s hearing immediately checked if you sense that they are not responding to sounds well.

What does it mean when my child has not passed the screening test?

If your child has not passed the screening test the first time, this could be due to several reasons including fluid in the ears and high background noise. It does not confirm the presence of hearing loss in your child. You will be asked to come back after 15-20 days for a follow up test.

What happens if my child does not pass the follow up test also?

If your child does not pass the follow up screening test again, you still don’t have any cause of concern. Your audiologist will ask you to get your child for a complete diagnostic evaluation within the next 3 months. This test may take about a half hour to an hour. This diagnostic test provides detailed information regarding your child’s hearing abilities.

If my child is diagnosed with hearing loss, what next?

Hearing loss can vary in terms of its type and severity. Your audiologist will explain your child’s hearing status in detail with you, and make an individualized plan for its management.

In order to help your child to hear better, your audiologist may recommend that your child wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. In addition to this, your child will also require to undergo listening training and speech and language therapy. This is because, children acquire speech and language by listening to their environment. If a child therefore has hearing loss, lack of stimulation could result in poor speech and language acquisition. Hence, listening training and speech and language therapy are important for the holistic development of a child with hearing impairment.

In general, it is important to remember that:

  • Screening every child that is born for hearing impairment is important for early identification and intervention.

  • Early hearing identification and intervention helps in mainstreaming a child with hearing impairment and in ensuring that the child gets equal opportunities in the society.

  • The presence of hearing impairment is not the end of the road. Give your child an early start by having his hearing tested soon!


For more information on New Born Hearing Screening:

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