about Hearing Screening

A system of care. A community of support.


Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

Hearing screening, more commonly referred to as Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS), is the first step in the early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) process. Babies’ hearing is either screened in the hospital at birth or shortly after birth. These early exams are referred to as “screenings” rather than “tests,” because their results are not definitive. They can only screen out those babies who are likely to have a hearing loss from those likely not to have a hearing loss. If a baby’s newborn hearing screening results show the child needs to be referred on for an additional hearing screening, then a second screening is performed around one month of the child’s age. If the child does not pass the second hearing screening, usually referred to as the outpatient hearing screening, then a diagnostic test is performed to confirm whether a hearing loss is present and, if so, the type and nature of the hearing loss.


newborn hearing screening

Texas has mandated UNHS since 1999 for the purpose of early identification of hearing loss in newborns.   Successful implementation of newborn hearing screening requires cooperation among providers and coordination of services across multiple service points to ensure that all infants with potential hearing loss receive a timely diagnostic evaluation and appropriate early intervention.

There was a time when children’s hearing could only be tested by observing how a child behaved in response to sounds. Today’s automated hearing screening machines do all of the work so even a sleeping baby’s hearing can be measured. Universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) is now the standard of care nationwide therefore hospitals screen a newborn’s hearing before he/she is discharged.

Close to 400,000 babies are born in Texas each year. Of those births, approximately 1,200 newborns, or 3/1000, will be diagnosed with a hearing loss in one or both ears. Early detection and intervention plays a vital role in diminishing and even eliminating the negative impacts of hearing loss. Infants with the proper diagnosis can be fit with hearing aids as early as a few days old. Research demonstrates that with appropriate and timely family-centered early intervention, normal language, cognitive and social development for these children is likely.

“Left undetected, hearing loss in infants can negatively impact speech and language acquisition, academic achievement, and social and emotional development. If detected, however, these negative impacts can be diminished and even eliminated through early intervention. Because of this, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Consensus Development Conference on Early Identification of Hearing Loss (1993) concluded that all infants should be screened for hearing loss, preferably prior to hospital discharge.”


TEHDI logo

TEHDI Program

The Texas Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (TEHDI) Program is designed to ensure that all children who have hearing loss as newborn infants or young children are identified early and provided appropriate intervention services needed to prevent delays in communication and cognitive skill development. The Texas Newborn Hearing Screening (NBHS) was established in 1999 through the passage of House Bill 714, and is currently being implemented in Texas hospitals. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is the oversight agency. The TEHDI Program has more information on universal newborn hearing screening in Texas to assist hearing screeners in working with families. Hearing screening is a critical first step in the early hearing detection and intervention process.


ncham banner


The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) serves as the National Resource Center for the implementation and improvement of comprehensive and effective Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) systems. As a multidisciplinary Center, their goal is to ensure that all infants and toddlers with hearing loss are identified as early as possible and provided with timely and appropriate audiology, educational, and medical intervention. NCHAM has a wide variety of nationally recognized universal newborn hearing resources that hearing screening professionals may be interested in reviewing.