Cape Hearing implants (CHi) is committed to neonatal hearing screening.

What is neonatal hearing screening?

Cape Hearing implants (CHi) is committed to neonatal hearing screening. Neonatal hearing screening is the process which aims to identify newborn babies with hearing loss as early as possible so that proper follow-up and treatment can be recommended. Hearing screenings through CHi also extend to include early intervention and responsible follow-up of these babies. In the USA, neonatal hearing screening is state-mandated before hospital dicharge. Unfortunately South-Africa is not yet on standard.

Incidence and causes of neonatal hearing loss.

Hearing loss is the most common congenital sensory disorder. It is estimated that 3 to 5 per 1000 of newborn babies in the USA suffer from hearing loss. This incidence increases ten-fold in high risk babies admitted to the neonatal intencive care unit.

In 75% of new borns, hearing loss is caused by genetic factors. Non-genetic hearing loss occurs in about 25% of new borns and is caused by illness or trauma before or during birth. The risk factors for hearing loss include:

• Low APGAR score
• Low birth weight
• Prolonged mechanical ventilation
• Virus Infections
• Jaundice due to hyperbilirubinaemia
• Ototoxic medication
• Meningitis
• Noise exposure in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

Hearing loss is more common in babies in the NICU.

Benefits of neonatal hearing screening.

Early detection of hearing loss and deafness in babies will lead to early optimal intervention. If undetected, hearing loss will impede speech, language, social, emotional and cognitive development. There are numerous examples of the benefits of early detection of hearing loss and deafness in the literature. Screening for hearing loss in neonates is a cost- effective intervention. Screening for specific risk factors, even in the setting where a neonate may pass an initial hearing screening, are currently under investigation. Such an example is cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection.


How is neonatal hearing screening performed?

An audiologist will visit you 24-48 hours after your baby is born to perform the hearing screening test. Technology has made it possible to evaluate a newborn baby’s hearing mechanism in a quick, reliable, harmless manner while the baby is sleeping. This procedure is called OTOACOUSTIC EMISSION TESTING (OAE). Otoacoustic emissions are sounds which are generated in the cochlea of the inner ear. A small rubber probe will be placed in your baby’s outer ear and soft sounds will be presented. The inner ear (cochlea) will ‘echo’ the sound back which is then measured by a sensitive microphone in the ear canal. The results will be discussed with you, indicated on the clinic card and a report will be send to your paediatrician.

If a baby is born at home, it is advised that a screening test is scheduled with an audiologist within one month after birth.

What if my baby fails the initial neonatal hearing screening?

There can be a few reasons why your baby fails an initial newborn hearing screening test. Amniotic fluid, vernix or other debri in the ear canal may hamper testing. In some cases, maturation may still not be optimal. These will usually clear up. A follow up hearing screening must be performed approximately six weeks after the initial hearing screening that failed. If your baby fails the second screening, further diagnostic hearing testing will be performed and a possible referral to an ear-nose and throat specialist of CHi arranged.

How can I arrange neonatal hearing screening for my baby?

Although it is not compulsory, it is strongly advised to have your newborn babies’ hearing screened. There are different neonatal hearing screening services available in different hospitals. More information can be obtained from the neontal unit in the hospital, your paediatrician or local audiologist. For any querries regarding the neonatal hearing screening programs at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Louis Leipoldt Mediclinic, Netcare Kuils River Hospital and Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital contact CHi on 021 418 3219 or write an email to

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