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 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 your baby has hearing loss. It means that your baby needs further testing or 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.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE), the most common test, is done in the hospital. A small ear probe is put in the baby’s ear. The ear probe can send and receive signals. It sends click sounds that go through all the parts of a baby’s ear. If the baby’s ear is healthy, it will make an echo from the click sounds, and the echo will go back to the ear probe. The ear probe records any echo it receives.
  • If an infant cannot get a OAE or if an infant doesn’t pass the OAE, they can get a different test – an automated auditory brainstem response. For this test, small sensors are put on the baby’s head, and the baby will wear earphones. This test measures how the nerves that control hearing respond to sound. Small sensors are placed on the baby’s head and earphones are also used. Both of these tests are safe and do not hurt.
  • Both of these tests must be done at the hospital your baby was born. If your baby was born at home, your midwife needs to give you a referral to one of these birthing hospitals.
    • Newport: Newport Hospital, 11 Friendship St., 401-845-1110
    • Providence: Women and Infants Hospital, 134 Thurbers Ave., Ste 215, 401-274-1122 x43918
    • South Kingstown: South County Hospital, 100 Kenyon Ave., 401-788-1225
    • Warwick: Kent Hospital, 455 Toll Gate Rd., 401-736-1988
    • Woonsocket: Landmark Medical Center, 115 Cass Ave., 401-769-4100 ext. 2218
  • 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 three months of age.

Left unfound or undetected, hearing impairments in infants can negatively affect speech and language skills; academic achievement; and social and emotional development. If found or detected, however, these negative effects can be reduced or even stopped through early intervention. For additional information, visit Baby Hearing.

Know the signs of hearing loss

3 Months: Diagnosis by an Audiologist

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss can vary for different children. If you see any of the following signs in your baby, call your child's healthcare provider:

  • Baby does not turn to the source of a sound from birth to three to four months of age.
  • Baby does not say single words, such as "dada" or "mama," by age one year.
  • Baby turns head when he or she sees you but not if you call out his or her name. Parents often think the baby is not paying attention or is ignoring them, but this could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.
  • Baby hears some sounds but not others.

An audiologist is a kind of healthcare provider who takes care of people who have a hearing loss. An audiologist will be able to diagnose your child and will explain what you need to do next.

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

Seek treatment and intervention services

6 Months: Early Intervention

Seeking early intervention services for hearing loss as soon as possible is very important. Rhode Island's Early Intervention (EI) Program is designed to help families support the growth and development of their infants and toddlers, birth through age three, who are delayed in their development or have a diagnosed condition known to cause developmental delay. Additionally, the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative’s Auditory Oral Foundations works to improve and expand technologies for young people with hearing impairment. The Rhode Island School for the Deaf educates students in American Sign Language, the common language of most Deaf people in the United States, along with English. Finally, Perspectives Corporation provides culturally and linguistically affirmative resources, education, and support for people who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH).

Reach out to your local and national organizations for support

The Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) is staffed by parents who have children with special needs of their own. Rhode Island’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (RI-EHDI) Resource Specialists through RIPIN bring years of personal experience as parents of children with hearing loss. They can provide guidance and support to you and your family as you navigate the often-confusing world of communication choices and education for the deaf and hard of hearing. The RI Medical Home Portal offers additional reliable resources and a one-stop-shop of information on hearing loss (see the “For Families” section). The National Hands and Voices (H&V) is a parent-driven, non-profit organization dedicated to providing unbiased support to families with children who are deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH). H&V does not promote specific communication choices or methodologies. If you wish to connect with the Rhode Island Local H&V Chapter, please visit their Facebook page or email Additionally, EHDI-PALS is a web-based searchable national directory that helps families, healthcare professionals, and state public health organizations find pediatric audiology expertise for children ages birth to five. EHDI-PALS links people to information, resources, and services for children with hearing loss. At the heart of EHDI-PALS is a national web-based directory of facilities that offers pediatric audiology services to young children.

Communicating with your child

Try different approaches to find what works best for your child and family. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

  • Would you like to learn American Sign Language (ASL)? If you have a child who is deaf or hard of hearing and is younger than age three years, get a free innovative online curriculum to learn ASL through SignIt.
  • Parents and professionals can find interactive resources in English and Spanish to support listening and spoken language development through Hear to Learn.


As a parent, you may refuse newborn hearing screening  (en español) 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

We 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 found to have hearing loss are referred to services in the community and provided with high-quality care and support.


Free Mobile Apps

  • Track your child’s milestones from age two months to five years with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) easy-to-use illustrated checklists; get tips from CDC for encouraging your child’s development; and find out what to do if you are ever concerned about how your child is developing. CDC’s Milestone Tracker App is available in English and Spanish.
  • What does hearing loss sound like? Find out what they're experiencing with Starkey Laboratories Hearing Loss Simulator.


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