One million Queensland newborns screened for hearing loss

3 March 2022

Children’s Health Queensland’s long-running Healthy Hearing Program has performed one million newborn hearing screenings on Queensland babies.

The Healthy Hearing Program has provided free newborn screenings for Queensland families since 2004, with the aim of giving every child born with hearing loss the best possible start in life.

About one in 1,000 babies nationally are born with moderate or more severe hearing loss in one or both ears every year, making it one of the most common congenital conditions detectable at birth.

The newborn screening service, delivered in all private and public birthing hospitals across the state, has identified a hearing loss in 2,628 children in the past 17 years.

Five-year-old Alice Salisbury, of Wynnum West, was one of those children. Her newborn screening detected hearing loss in her right ear, but she experienced progressive hearing loss in both ears due to an underlying virus (congenital Cytomegalovirus or CMV).

Alice’s mother, Angelique, said the early detection of her daughter’s hearing loss and the decision to get cochlear implants shortly after her first birthday changed their lives.

“Finding that Alice had hearing loss as a newborn allowed us to engage in support services and therapies from a very early age to help her language and speech development,” Ms Salisbury said.

“Alice is now an incredibly resilient, confident little girl who loves to talk. She still requires support, but she is continuing to grow and learn every day.”

Congratulating the Healthy Hearing team on their milestone, Children’s Health Queensland Chief Executive Frank Tracey said newborn screening was a vital first step in a child and their family’s hearing loss pathway, ensuring they get the care and support they need to reach their full potential.

“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. The earlier a hearing problem is identified, and the right support provided, the lesser the impact it will have on a child’s life,” Mr Tracey said.

“Before universal newborn hearing screening began in Queensland the average age of detection of permanent hearing loss in children was approximately 30 months.  Now it is within days of a child’s birth.

“Congratulations to the Healthy Hearing team on this impressive milestone and, on behalf of the thousands of Queensland children and families whose lives you have touched in the past 17 years, thank you for making a real and lasting difference for children born with a hearing loss.”

Healthy Hearing Program director Dr Rachael Beswick said the statewide screening team of about 850 nurses screen more than 99 per cent of all infants born in Queensland – around 60,000 babies a year.

“The reach of the program has a considerable impact on children’s future learning, social and emotional wellbeing in our state,” Dr Beswick said

“If a newborn screening detects a possible issue, the Healthy Hearing pathway guides families through follow-up testing and diagnosis to early intervention programs and, where appropriate, surgical interventions (such as cochlear implants).

“This approach reflects Children’s Health Queensland’s ongoing commitment to deliver the right care, at the right time, in the right way, for Queensland children and their families.”

For further information on the Healthy Hearing program, visit: 
childrens.health.qld.gov.au/healthy-hearing

ENDS

Media contact: t: +61 7 3068 5111 e: chqnews@health.qld.gov.au

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