28 February 2018

Every child born in Queensland is now being tested with the latest and fastest hearing screening technology, thanks to a $1.1million investment by the Queensland Government.

All of Queensland’s 64 birthing hospitals now offer free newborn hearing loss screening in as little as 12 seconds with the hand-held AccuScreen device, compared to the older technology which could take up to seven minutes.

Children’s Health Queensland’s Healthy Hearing Program was the first newborn screening program in the country to introduce the AccuScreen technology in August 2016. Since that time it has been progressively rolled out across the state.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the Healthy Hearing program was an important first step to detect the one in 1000 babies born with a bilateral moderate or greater degree of hearing loss.

“Our Healthy Hearing Program has offered free newborn hearing screening to all Queensland familiessince January 2007,” Mr Miles said. “We currently have 850 nurse screeners providing this important service in public and private hospitals.”

“Research shows that early detection of hearing loss and early intervention by the age of six months is critical to an infant’s speech and language development.”

“Screening in such a short time means there is less impact on a newborn and their parents and the new device also processes data more accurately and quickly.”

“We are proud to be leading the rest of the country in the use of this new and more efficient AccuScreen technology, which offers our Queensland’s newest citizens and their parents the best-possible care and treatment.”

Healthy Hearing Program director Dr Rachael Beswick said the program screens more than 99 per cent of all infants born in Queensland, up to 60,000 babies a year, to ensure children get the best possible start in life.

“Over the past year our program has screened more than 57,000 newborns with the new device and detected more than 100 children with a hearing loss,” she said.

Newborn hearing screening involves a trained screening nurse playing soft clicking sounds through special earphones that are placed over a baby’s ears while he/she is quiet or asleep.

The results of the screen are known immediately and show either a ‘pass’ or ‘refer’ and are recorded in a baby’s Personal Health Record. When an infant obtains a second ‘refer’ result, they require further testing by an audiologist.

“When a child is identified with a hearing loss, where appropriate, they are offered hearing aids and some of these children will go on to receive cochlear implants,” Dr Beswick said.

For further information, visit: www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/healthy-hearing-program