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Screening For Hearing Loss In Newborns

Why does your new-born need to be screened for hearing loss?

The benefit of screening your new-born for hearing loss is the early detection leading to early treatment. The outcome of early treatment is appropriate speech, better social skills and mental development.

Suspicion of the child’s hearing ability by the parents or family and friends is the most common reason for seeking a hearing expert in Kenya. However, this is might lead to delays in treatment and poorer outcomes.

It is advised that all babies with hearing loss be identified by 3 months of age so that treatment can begin before the baby is 6 months old, an important time for speech and language development.

How will your new-born be screened for hearing loss?

There are 2 different tests for hearing loss in newborns:

  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR) – For this test, the doctor will put 3 small devices called electrodes on your baby: on the forehead, back of the neck, and behind the ear. The electrodes connect to a machine that measures how your baby’s brain responds to a clicking sound.
  • Otoacoustic emissions(OAE) – For this test, the doctor puts a small microphone into your baby’s ear. The microphone makes sounds (clicks or a tone). It also measures sound from the cochlea, the area inside the ear that allows you to hear.

These tests are quick (5-15 minutes) and painless to perform.

What happens if your child doesn’t pass a screening test for hearing?

An initial non-pass may induce worry, distress and anxiety.

However, if one of the tests suggests hearing impairment, a second test will be performed. Your baby might further require formal diagnostic testing by an audiologist (hearing expert).

Are some new-borns more at risk of having hearing loss?

Yes, some new-borns are at higher risk of developing hearing loss:

  1. Admission to a NICU (new born ICU)
  2. Prematurity
  3. Low birth weight
  4. Other health problems
  5. Family history of hearing impairment
  6. Infections in the new-born (including meningitis)
  7. Severe yellowness of the skin (jaundice)
  8. Abnormally shaped ears (one or both)

The content on the Nairobi ENT website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.


  1. Omondi, Dickens, et al. “Parental awareness of hearing impairment in their school-going children and healthcare seeking behaviour in Kisumu district, Kenya.” International journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology3 (2007): 415-423.
  2. Nelson, Heidi D., Christina Bougatsos, and Peggy Nygren. “Universal newborn hearing screening: systematic review to update the 2001 US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation.” Pediatrics1 (2008): e266-e276.
  3. Muhoh PN. “Newborn screening for hearing loss using transient evoked otoacosutic emmisions in Kenyatta National Hospital.” MMed ENT thesis (2005): unpublished