About the Infant Hearing Program

Hearing loss can develop during early childhood. It is important to pay close attention to your baby’s speech and language development as any issues may be a sign of hearing loss.

It is important to detect hearing loss as early as possible.

The Infant Hearing Program provides:

  • hearing screening for all newborns in hospital or community settings
  • assessments to identify permanent hearing loss
  • monitoring of children at risk of developing hearing loss
  • language development services

Two out of 1,000 babies have hearing loss at birth. Two more out of 1,000 develop hearing loss by the age of five. These children may hear some sounds but miss others, making it harder to learn speech and language. This can lead to behavioral and learning challenges.

Get a fact sheet about your baby’s hearing.
Chinese simplified | Arabic | Punjabi | Spanish | Farsi | ASL | LSQ

Newborn hearing screening

All newborns in hospital and community settings will get universal hearing screening as part of the Infant Hearing Program.

Hearing screening identifies infants who should have more in-depth testing for hearing loss as early as possible.

Most babies will pass the newborn hearing screening. This means that their hearing is fine at that time.

Get a fact sheet about your baby’s hearing screen.
Chinese simplified | Arabic | Punjabi | Spanish | Farsi | ASL | LSQ

About the hearing screen

Screening a baby’s hearing accurately requires special training and equipment.

The screen is reliable, quick and give results right away. It measures the ear’s or brain’s response to soft sounds played in your baby’s ear and, if needed, may use small stickers placed on your baby’s head.

The technology used for the hearing screen is safe and will not hurt your baby.

Identifying babies at risk for permanent hearing loss

Babies with certain risks for hearing loss will be monitored. The same sample collected by the hospital or midwife for the newborn blood spot screening can be screened for:

  • Cytomegalovirus infection – babies usually show no symptoms at birth but hearing loss could develop later
  • Some common genetic risk factors – there is usually no family history of hearing loss

How to prepare for your baby’s hearing screen

To prepare your baby for the hearing screen:

  • avoid putting lotion on your baby’s head on the day of the screen
  • feed your baby just before the appointment
  • bring your baby sleeping or resting quietly in a car seat

When you go for the screen, don’t forget to bring:

  • baby’s Ontario health card number (if available)
  • a blanket and other items to calm your baby
  • extra diapers and clothes

Results of the hearing screen

After the hearing screen you will receive a result. Your result could be:

  • Pass: Most babies will pass the hearing screen. This means that their hearing is fine at that time.
  • Refer: more detailed testing is needed
  • No result: the screen was incomplete, more detailed testing is needed
  • Bypassing hearing screen: a full assessment is needed

If your baby needs a full hearing assessment

Your baby may need a full hearing assessment by an audiologist in the Infant Hearing Program if you received one of these newborn hearing screen results:

  • Refer: more detailed testing is needed
  • No result: the screen was incomplete, more detailed testing is needed
  • Bypassing hearing screen: a full assessment is needed

Get a fact sheet about your baby’s full hearing assessment.
Chinese simplified | Arabic | Punjabi | Spanish | Farsi | ASL | LSQ

How to prepare for your baby’s full hearing assessment

Your baby must sleep during the assessment. Your baby should arrive for the appointment at the audiology clinic tired and hungry or the appointment may need to be rebooked. Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for this visit:

  • Avoid lotion on your baby’s head on the day of the test
  • Keep your baby awake a few hours before and while travelling to the appointment
  • Be prepared to feed your baby at the clinic just before testing begins
  • Bring a blanket and items to feed or calm your baby and extra diapers and clothes

What to expect if your baby has hearing loss

If your baby is identified with permanent hearing loss, your audiologist will help you understand what supports and services are available.

This could include:

  • how the hearing loss may affect your baby
  • how technology may help your baby hear
  • what services and support are available to help your baby

Infant Hearing Program locations

Manitoulin-Sudbury, Algoma, Cochrane and Nipissing-Timiskaming

North Bay Regional Health Centre
Toll-free: 1-877-522-6655

Kenora and Rainy River District

Northwestern Health Unit
Toll-free: 1-877-553-7122

Ottawa, Renfrew County and Eastern counties of Prescott-Russell & Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry

Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre
Local: 613-688-3979
Toll-free: 1-866-432-7447
TTY: 613-820-7427

Kingston and counties of Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, Leeds, Grenville, Lanark, Hastings and Prince Edward

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
Local: 613-549-1232 ext. 1145
Toll-free: 1-800-267-7875 ext. 1145
TTY: 613-549-7692
Toll-free TTY: 1-866-299-1136

Middlesex, London, Oxford, Elgin-St. Thomas, Sarnia-Lambton, Huron-Perth and Grey Bruce Owen Sound

Thames Valley Children’s Centre
Local: 519-663-0273
Toll-free: 1-877-818-8255

York, Durham, Peterborough, Northumberland, Haliburton & Kawartha Lakes

Oak Valley Health
Toll-free: 1-888-703-5437
TTY: 905-773-7282

Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent

Connections Early Years Family Centre
Local: 519-252-0636

Hamilton, Niagara, Brant and Haldimand Norfolk

Affiliated Services for Children and Youth
Local: 905-385-7927
Toll-free: 1-866-826-4327

Get more information

For more information, contact:

ServiceOntario
Toll-free: 1-866-821-7770
Toll-free TTY: 1-800-387-5559

Help your child develop speech and language skills

Here are some tips about how you can help your child develop speech and language skills.

It’s never too early to help your child learn language.

Get a fact sheet about helping your child learn language.
Chinese simplified | Arabic | Punjabi | Spanish | Tamil | ASL | LSQ

Babies

Babies like it when you:

  • Get down to their level so they can see your face. This tells them that you’re interested in what they’re doing and saying. It makes it easier to interact with you.
  • Repeat the sounds they make. Babies enjoy making noises, and like it when you imitate them over and over.
  • Sing and laugh, especially when you are feeding, bathing, and changing them. Remember to talk to your baby throughout the day about things you do and see – “Mommy’s putting on her coat”, “That’s a big truck”.
  • Tell them the names of the objects they are looking at and playing with. Babies are interested in exploring and learning about new things and like to hear what things are called.

Toddlers

Toddlers like it when you:

  • let them touch and hold books while you point to and name the pictures
  • use real words instead of baby talk – “give me” instead of ta ta or “water” instead of wawa
  • take the time to listen to them – they want you to hear all of their new sounds, words and ideas
  • give them simple directions to follow – “Go find your red boots”
  • use lots of different words when you talk to them – opposite words like up/down, in/out; action words like “running”, “splashing”, and descriptive words like “happy”, “big”, “little”, “clean”, “dirty”
  • encourage them to play with other children – at the library, play groups, park
Updated: November 19, 2021
Published: August 18, 2020