Hearing and vision checks for babies

Hearing and vision checks for babies

Your baby's eyes should be checked soon after birth. If you have concerns about your baby's vision or hearing at any time, take your baby for an assessment.

Key points to remember

  • all babies are checked at birth to see that all is well - some of your baby's health checks are called 'screening'
  • screening for hearing and some vision problems for your baby should happen at birth
  • if you have concerns about your baby's vision or hearing at any time, take your baby for an assessment
  • if your baby does have a hearing or vision problem, finding it early is good for their learning and development

What hearing checks are needed for babies?

Your child's hearing will be screened at birth as part of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme. The aim is to find out, as early as possible, if your baby has hearing loss. If they do, they can get the help they need as soon as possible to help their language, learning and social development.

If your baby's hearing has not been screened, talk to your midwife or doctor so that the screening can be arranged. Screening should be finished by the time your baby is 1 month old. 

For more information about the Programme and why you should have your baby screened, see:

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The following Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme video explains what happens during your baby's hearing screening.

What does it mean if my baby passes the hearing screening?

If your baby passes the hearing screen, it means that at the time of the screen, your baby's hearing was good. It is still possible for some babies who pass their hearing screen to develop a hearing loss later. 

The hearing checklist in the section below is also on the back of the following leaflet and will help you monitor your baby's speech and language skills as they grow:

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These hearing checks are also in your baby's Well Child Tamariki Ora Health Book, to complete before each Well Child check. The Well Child Tamariki Ora checks include questions for you about your baby's hearing, speech and language progress. If you have concerns about the way your child listens or responds, please talk about it with your Well Child nurse, early childhood teacher or your family doctor.

Hearing checklist - can your baby hear?

At 4–10 weeks, when there is a sudden loud noise, do they ...

  • jump or blink?
  • stir in their sleep?
  • stop sucking for a moment?
  • look up from sucking?
  • cry?

At 3–4 months, do they ...

  • blink or cry when there is a sudden noise?
  • stop crying or sucking when you talk?
  • wake or stir to loud sounds?
  • coo or smile when you talk?
  • turn their eyes toward voices?
  • seem to like a musical toy?
  • stop moving when there is a new sound?
  • seem to know your voice?

At 5–7 months, do they ...

  • turn towards a sound or someone speaking?
  • cry when there is a sudden noise?
  • like music?
  • make lots of different babbling sounds?
  • sometimes copy sounds you make?

At 9–12 months, do they ...

  • respond to their own name?
  • look around to find new sounds – even quiet ones?
  • understand 'no' and 'bye-bye'?
  • listen when people talk?
  • like copying sounds?
  • use babbling that sounds like real speech?
  • try to talk back when you talk?

If your baby does have a hearing loss, finding it early is good for their language, learning and social development.

The hearing checklist is also available in Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Korean, Hindi, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

What if my baby needs repeat hearing screening?

Some babies may need a repeat screen because the earlier screening did not show a strong enough response in one or both ears. See:

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What if my baby is referred to an audiologist?

If your baby's hearing screening shows that a further check is needed, your baby will be referred to a hearing specialist (audiologist). They will do more tests and give you more advice.

For more information about this referral and what help is available if your child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, see:

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What vision checks are needed for babies?

Your child's eyes should be checked soon after birth for what is known as a ‘red reflex'. Children who have an abnormal reflex are referred to an eye doctor (ophthalmologist). Some very premature babies need eye examinations when they are in the newborn unit.

This page last reviewed 20 July 2016.
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