Newborn Hearing Screening Information for Parents

A hearing screening is a test to tell if an infant might have a hearing loss. Hearing loss can affect a child's ability to develop communication, language, and social skills. The earlier children with hearing loss start getting services, the more likely they are to reach their full potential.

The hearing screening is done by placing a small microphone in your baby's ear. This screening takes about 15 minutes and does not hurt the baby. (Often times the infant sleeps right through the screening.) You will get the results of the hearing screening before you leave the hospital. This procedure is only a screening tool and is not used to diagnose hearing loss. If your baby does not pass this screening, it does not mean he/she has hearing loss. It means that your baby needs further evaluation.

What You Should Do

Have your baby screened for hearing loss

  • All babies should be screened for hearing loss no later than one month of age. It is best if they are screened before leaving the hospital after birth.
  • If your baby does not pass a hearing screening, it is very important to get a full hearing test as soon as possible, but no later than 3 months of age.

Know the signs of hearing loss

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are different for different children. If you see any of these signs, call your child's doctor or nurse:

  • Does not turn to the source of a sound from birth to 3-4 months of age.
  • Does not say single words, such as "dada" or "mama", by 1 year of age.
  • Turns head when he or she sees you but not if you call out his or her name (This usually is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.)
  • Hears some sounds but not others.

Seek treatment and intervention services

  • If your child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, talk to the doctor or audiologist about treatment and intervention services.
  • Babies that are diagnosed with hearing loss should begin to get intervention services as soon as possible, but no later than 6 months of age.


As a parent, you may refuse newborn hearing screening for your baby only if your religious beliefs and practices do not allow this testing. If you refuse to have the test done, you will be asked to sign a paper stating that you refused to have your baby tested.

What We Are Doing

Oversee the Rhode Island Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (RIEHDI) which is designed to identify hearing problems early through newborn screening and diagnosis. Rhode Island newborns are screened for hearing loss before they leave the hospital after birth. Infants identified with hearing loss are referred to services in the community and provided with quality care and support.