In the Netherlands, Child Healthcare has been testing young children’s hearing since the 1960s. Initially, this was done at the age of nine months, using a test that relied on children’s natural reaction to sound (method according to Ewing). In the early 1990s, an automated version of this test was developed and introduced by the NSDSK.
At the end of the 20th century, it was shown that if treatment for hearing impairment in children started before they reached the age of six months, this had a favourable effect on their communicative and linguistic development. This was made possible by the fact that testing equipment was now available that made it possible to perform hearing tests on newborns. The newborn hearing screening made it possible to reduce referral rates for Audiology Centres from 5–6% (using a hearing test at the age of nine months) to less than 0.3%.
The completion of a preliminary study cleared the way for the introduction of the newborn hearing screening in Child Healthcare (from 2002 to 2006), under the direction of the NSDSK and TNO. The final evaluation was performed by TNO in cooperation with the NSDSK. This test had been introduced within the NICUs several years previously.
Together with the nationwide implementation, an ideal opportunity was created to establish effective quality control. This involved the national screening protocol, use of the same screening equipment, and the newborn hearing screening information system.
The newborn hearing screening is financed from local authority funds.
In addition to most western countries, the newborn hearing screening has been introduced to countries in the Middle and Far East. In the Netherlands, unlike most other countries, the hearing test is performed at home, not in a hospital. The reason is that most Dutch parents take their newborns home within 1-2 days of their birth. The Netherlands is one of the first countries in the world to achieve national coverage for the newborn hearing screening. Compared to screening programmes elsewhere, the Netherlands has a high participation rate and one of the lowest referral rates to Audiology Centres.