Universal New Born Hearing Screening and Diagnoses

Royal Hobart Hospital

Universal New Born Hearing Screening and Diagnoses

Universal New Born Hearing Screening and Diagnoses

The purpose of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) Program is to support early identification and timely and appropriate intervention for childhood hearing loss. We know that approximately 1-2 per thousand babies are born each year in Australian with a significant hearing loss. This loss can often escape detection until the child is failing to attain language milestones. Unmanaged hearing loss has significant consequences. In contrast hearing impaired infants that receive intervention by six months of age have a very good chance of developing age appropriate speech and language.

Contact Details

Phone: 61660107

Fax: 6234 9597

Email: audiology@dhhs.tas.gov.au

Location: level 11 Wellington Clinic, Argyle St Hobart

Clinics are held at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH), Launceston General Hospital (LGH), the Mersey Community Hospital and the North West Regional hospital Burnie.

All appointments are organised from our main department at RHH.

What do we provide?

New born hearing screening and diagnostic assessment and support for all Tasmanian babies.

How old does a child have to be before they can have a hearing test?

A baby can be tested from birth. All babies born in Tasmania will be offered a newborn hearing screen. However some babies/children may pass this screen and develop a hearing loss. If families suspect their baby or child has a hearing loss, they should be referred as a matter of urgency for an audiological assessment.

What is the Referral Procedure?

We do not require a medical referral for Infants less than 12 months for hearing screening or diagnostic assessment.


All new born babies in Tasmania are offered a free hearing screen. A two-step screening protocol is used – babies that do not PASS their initial screen are re-screened. If a clear response is not obtained on the second screen a diagnostic appointment is arranged.


The screening technology used is Automated ABR (AABR). Tthousands of clicks are presented to the newborns ears, evoking a series of brain waves from the auditory brain stem. This response is compared with a template based on the response of a normal hearing full term infant. If a match is found a PASS result is achieved. As responses can be masked by muscle movement and noise, babies need to be asleep for the test.

Why may a baby not PASS their screen?

A baby may not PASS their screen for one of the following reasons

  • Screen was performed when baby was too young. Babies screened under 12 hours of age are very likely to Refer, due to temporary blockage in the ear canal
  • Baby was unsettled or noisy during screen
  • Background noise or electrical interference contaminated the response
  • Temporary blockage within the ear canal or middle ear
  • Some degree of permanent or temporary hearing loss

What happens if a baby is not screened while in hospital?

Every attempt is made to screen babies before they leave hospital. However this is not always possible.If a baby is missed while in hospital, or requires follow up, an outpatient appointment is arranged. Outpatient clinics are held at RHH, LGH, Mersey Community Hospital and the North West Regional hospital Burnie.

My baby has been referred for a diagnostic test. What happens now?

This does not necessarily mean your baby has a hearing loss. Over half of the babies seen for a full assessment will be found to have either normal hearing or a short term temporary loss. However we need to find out as soon as possible if your baby does have a hearing loss so that you and your baby can get the correct advice and support to assist with the development of their communication.

We will arrange for a diagnostic appointment. The assessment may take twenty minutes or up to two hours depending on the results and how settled the baby is. Testing will be carried out by an Audiologist, who is a hearing specialist. The test involves measuring your baby's response to a range of sounds while they are asleep. These responses are picked up from your baby's hearing nerve by sticky pads which are placed on your baby's head. None of these tests will hurt your baby.

Placing the sticky pads can wake a sleeping baby, so it is best if feeding and sleep can be delayed until you are at the appointment. Once the sticky pads are in place you can settle your baby to sleep. We allow plenty of time.

The Audiologist will inform you of the results and explain what they mean, usually on the same day.

What happens if a baby is found to have a permanent hearing loss?

Babies that are diagnosed with a permanent hearing loss are referred for early intervention and management. Medical review by a paediatrician and ENT specialist is also required.

My baby/child PASSED their new born hearing screen but I am concerned about their hearing. What should I do?

Just because a baby passes their new born hearing screen does not mean they cannot develop a temporary or permanent hearing loss at a later time. If your baby is less than 12 months of age contact us, and we will arrange an appointment at the Audiology clinic at RHH. If your child is over 12 months of age we will require a referral from your doctor or Child Health Nurse.

What are the signs of a hearing loss in a baby/toddler?

  • The baby starts to babble normally, then stops for no reason
  • The baby does not respond to environmental sounds or  appears inattentive
  • The baby does not begin to talk at an age when they should
  • Speech and language development seems delayed; they do not use many words

What are the signs of a hearing loss in a child?

The child with a hearing loss may:

  • Appear inattentive and naughty
  • Have difficulty hearing if there is background noise or locating the source of the sound
  • Often make speech errors
  • Have delayed language development
  • Speak too loudly or too softly
  • Need to have sentences/instructions repeated or misunderstand what is said
  • Turn up the TV
  • Respond inconsistently
  • Not understand soft speech or respond when called from a distance
  • Tend to become withdrawn and quiet in group situations

If a parent is concerned they must be referred for formal Audiological assessment. Undiagnosed or late diagnosed hearing loss has significant consequences


Deaf Children Australia