Hearing Tests

Newborn Hearing Screening

One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears.

Early identification is known to be important for the development of the child. Identifying hearing loss early means the best support and information can be provided to the child and parents at an early stage, which usually leads to excellent outcomes.

Your baby will be offered the hearing screening test within the first few weeks of life. The hearing screen is usually carried out at home by your health visitor. If your baby's hearing is not screened ask your health visitor, or family doctor to arrange an appointment.

Babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care unit for more than 48 hours will have their hearing screened prior to discharge.

Targeted 8 month follow up

At the time of your baby's hearing screening tests you will be asked a few questions about factors that may affect hearing, for example if another family member has a hearing loss.

Where possible risk factors for hearing loss are identified you may be offered a further check of your baby's hearing when they are around 8 months old. An appointment will be posted to you as your baby approaches the correct age for testing. This will be carried out either within the main hospital audiology department or at a convenient community hospital within the Exeter, East and Mid Devon area. At these appointments behavioural hearing tests are carried out, looking at how your baby responds to sounds.

Referral to audiology department 

If the second screening test does not show a clear response from one or both of your baby’s ears you will be referred to your local audiology department. They will carry out special tests to measure your baby’s hearing. Again, this often happens and does not necessarily mean your baby has a hearing loss.

Hearing test results

These will be discussed with you at the end of each appointment and any necessary arrangements for follow up visits discussed.

Parents and families may have many questions when they find out their baby has a hearing loss. Each baby's hearing loss will be different and your audiologist will be able explain the sounds your baby can hear and which sounds it may be difficult for them to hear. Parents react in many different ways when they first find out that their baby has a hearing loss and can experience a wide range of emotions. Whatever your feelings it is important that you acknowledge and share them. There are a variety of organisations that can provide support for you and your baby. You can ask your audiology department for further information about support in your local area or alternatively you can contact the National Deaf Children's Society Free phone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (10am to 5pm Mon-Fri) or send an e-mail to helpline@ndcs.org.uk or visit the website ndcs.org.uk. Their experienced advisors can help answer any questions you may have and put you in touch with other parents with deaf children through a network of local support groups.

NHSP website


Reaction to sounds checklist

This list and the Making Sounds Checklist give pointers about what to look for as your baby grows to check if he/she can hear. Babies differ widely in what they can do at any given age. The ages presented here are an approximate guide only.

Shortly after birth - a baby:

Is startled by a sudden loud noise such as a hand clap or a door slamming. Blinks or opens eyes widely to such sounds or stops sucking or starts to cry.

1 month - a baby:

Starts to notice sudden prolonged sounds like the noise of a vacuum cleaner and may turn towards the noise. Pauses and listens to the noises when they begin.

4 months - a baby:

Quietens or smiles to the sounds of familiar voice even when unable to see speaker and turns eyes or head towards voice. Shows excitement at sounds (eg. voices, footsteps etc).

7 months - a baby:

Turns immediately to familiar voice across the room or to very quiet noises made on each side (if not too occupied with other things).

9 months - a baby:

Listens attentively to familiar everyday sounds and searches for very quiet sounds made out of sight.

12 months - a baby:

Shows some response to own name. May also respond to expressions like 'no' and 'bye bye' even when any accompanying gesture cannot be seen.

Making sounds checklist


This list and the Reaction to Sounds Checklist give pointers about what to look for as your baby grows to check if he/she can hear. Babies do differ in what they can do at any given age. The ages presented here are approximate only.


4 months - a baby:

Makes soft sounds when awake. Gurgles and coos.

6 months - a baby:

Makes laughter-like sounds. Starts to make sing-song vowel sounds (eg: a-a, muh, goo, der, aroo, adah).

9 months - a baby:

Makes sounds to communicate in friendliness or annoyance, babbles (eg. 'dada da', 'ma ma ma', 'ba ba ba'), shows pleasure in babbling loudly and tunefully, starts to imitate other sounds like coughing or smacking lips.

12 months - a baby:

Babbles loudly, often in a conversational-type rhythm. May start to use one or two recognisable words.

15 months - a baby:

Makes lots of speech-like sounds. Uses 2-6 recognisable words meaningfully (eg. 'teddy' when seeing or wanting the teddy bear).

18 months - a baby:

Makes speech-like sounds with conversational-type rhythm when playing. Uses 6-20 recognisable words. Tries to join in nursery rhymes and songs.

24 months - a child:

Uses 50 or more recognisable words appropriately. Puts 2 or more words together to make simple sentences (for example: more milk). Joins in nursery rhymes and songs. Talks to self during play (may be incomprehensible to others).

30 months - a child:

Uses 200 or more recognisable words. Uses pronouns (eg: I, me, you). Uses sentences but many will lack adult structure. Talks intelligibly to self during play. Asks questions. Says a few nursery rhymes.