Children learn to talk by imitating the sounds and voices they hear every day and the first months and years of a baby’s life play a very important role in the development of language skills
About 4 in 1,000 babies in Ontario will have hearing loss at birth or before the age of 5.
The Infant Hearing program screens all newborn infants under two months of age in Ontario. The screening is free, fast, reliable and does not hurt the baby in any way.
How can I get my baby’s hearing screened?
Birthing hospitals and midwives will be able to send your contact information to us and we will try to respond within the first few days of your baby’s life.
It is important that we connect with you as soon as possible so that we can book an appointment before your baby is one month old. If your baby is more than four days old and you have not yet heard from us, please call us right away.
Our number is 613-688-3979 extension 3453 or toll-free 1-866-HEAR-IHP (1-866-432-7447). We will do our best to schedule an appointment at a location and time that works for you.
Is your baby at a higher risk for hearing loss?
When your baby was born, the hospital or midwife took a blood sample from your baby’s foot. This “heel prick” test was for the newborn blood spot screening through Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO).
It is now possible to use this same blood sample to look for a few more risks for hearing loss. We will not take any other blood from your baby.
When we contact you to set up your baby’s appointment, we will explain this extra test. You will have the chance to ask questions and to let us know if you’d like to go ahead with this second part of the screening.
How will I know if my baby’s speech, language and hearing are on-track?
The First Words Communication Checkup is available to families living in Ottawa and Renfrew County. This confidential screening is for children six months of age or older.
The First Words Communication Checkup:
- Screens your child’s global development
- Provides instant results
- Gives you specific next steps for your child’s development
Sign up for an email reminder to complete the screening in six months to check how your child is doing.
If you do not live in Ottawa or Renfrew County, you can locate your local Preschool Speech and Language Program here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my baby is over the age of two months?
It is very important that screening takes place while a baby is still a newborn. Over the age of two months, babies can no longer be screened by the Infant Hearing Program.
If you have a child over the age of two months and you are worried about their hearing, please see the child’s doctor for follow up. If your child’s doctor (or primary care provider) has specific concerns about your child’s hearing, they can send a referral to CHEO Audiology by using this form.
Where can I get more information about the extra testing done with the newborn blood spot?
When your baby was born, the hospital or midwife took a blood sample from your baby's foot. This “heel prick” test was for the newborn blood spot screening through Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO). It is now possible to use this same sample to look for a few more risks for hearing loss. We will not take any other blood from your baby.
With this blood sample, NSO and the Infant Hearing Program can screen for Congenital Cytomegalovirus (cCMV) and some genetic markers. Babies with cCMV usually show no signs of this virus when born but could develop a hearing loss later on. Babies with some common genetic markers usually have no family history of hearing loss.
When we contact you to set up your baby's appointment, we will explain these extra tests. You can ask questions and let us know if you would like to go ahead with this second part of the screening.
You can find more information about Newborn Screening Ontario and our partnership here.
Where can I get my baby’s hearing screened?
Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre is home to the Infant Hearing Program of Eastern Ontario.
We serve families from:
- Renfrew County
- United Counties of Prescott and Russell
- United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
We have locations throughout these regions and will do our best to find a time and location that work for you.
How to prepare for my baby’s appointment?
Babies must be sleeping to complete this test.
- Feed your baby and change their diaper before leaving home.
- If your baby falls asleep on the way to your appointment, leave them in their stroller, car seat or infant carrier when you bring them into the building.
- Do not use lotion or oil on your baby’s head or behind their ears on the day of the screening.
- Bring your baby’s Ontario health card number or the temporary paper OHIP form.
- Bring blankets and any other items needed to calm your baby as well as extra diapers and clothes.
How will you know if my baby can hear?
The tests we use are reliable, quick and give results right away. They do not hurt and are not harmful to the baby.
We place a small earpiece in your baby’s ear. The equipment will play soft sounds and then will measure the ear or the brain’s response to those sounds. We may also use stickers placed on your baby’s forehead and behind each ear, but this isn’t always needed.
At the end of the test, the machine will say:
- “Pass” meaning that your baby's hearing is normal, or
- "Refer” meaning we don’t know and we need to try again.
If your baby passes the screening, it means that their hearing is normal at the time of screening. We will discharge them from the Infant Hearing Program and do not need to see them again.
It is important to remember that hearing can change over time. You will need to pay attention to your baby’s hearing, speech and language development as they grow.
Speak to your child's doctor or primary care provider if you are worried about your baby's hearing or speech and language. They may refer your child for an audiology assessment.
What if my baby does not pass the hearing screening?
There are two different tests a screener may use when screening your baby.
If your baby does not pass one type of test, we may try another test. We may need to ask you to come back on a different day to try again.
If your baby still does not pass, we will send them to an audiologist.
Audiologists have the training and equipment to complete a full hearing assessment.
Why is early screening so important?
It is important to find out if your baby has a hearing loss. Having a permanent hearing loss can cause delays in your baby’s language development. This can lead to behavioural and emotional problems and problems in school at a later date.
The sooner we find hearing loss, the better it is for the child.
Knowing about a hearing loss early on means that babies can get the help they need right away. This will give them the same chance to develop language skills as children who can hear.
There are many services available to help children with hearing loss.
What if my baby does have a permanent hearing loss?
The Infant Hearing Program of Eastern Ontario (IHP) has many great partners. We work with the following local hospitals and community providers:
- CHEO Audiology
- Centre Jules Leger
- Sir James Whitney
- Silent Voice (American Sign Language (ASL) consultants)
- Consultants in Langue des signes Québécoise (LSQ)
The IHP helps children to see audiologists for assessment and assistive technology. We can help them learn to communicate using sign language (ASL or LSQ) or spoken language (AVTa).
Our Family Support Worker can answer your questions, give you information and connect you to many services.
My baby passed the hearing screening when they were born but now I’m worried. What can I do?
My baby is under two months of age
Parents or legal guardians can call (613) 688-3979 ext. 3453 / toll free 1-866-432-7447 to book an appointment. We will screen eligible babies at a local community clinic.
My baby is over two months of age
We can no longer screen your baby under the Infant Hearing Program. If you are worried about their hearing, please see the child’s doctor or primary care provider for follow up.
Doctors or primary care providers can send a referral to CHEO using the Audiology Referral Form.
Call: 613-688-3979 ext. 3453