Faster, easier hearing loss screening for newborns

25 August 2016

Queensland babies will be screened for hearing loss in as little as 12 seconds under a $1.1million rollout of new screening equipment unveiled today by the Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick.

The Healthy Hearing Program is the first newborn screening program in the country to introduce the hand-held Accuscreen device, which will be introduced to all 64 birthing hospitals in Queensland by January 2018.

Launching the equipment as part of Hearing Awareness Week, Mr Dick said the free newborn screening provided by Healthy Hearing was an important first step for the one child in every 1,000 born with a bilateral moderate or greater degree of hearing loss.

“Screening for hearing loss in the first few days of life is vital for identifying issues early and getting children and their families the support and treatment they need as soon as possible,” Mr Dick said.

“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 Healthy Hearing Program screens more than 99 per cent of all infants born in Queensland, that’s more than 60,000 a year, to ensure children get the best possible start in life.”

Screening nurses started using the new device at the Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane on 1 August and by the end of the month it will be available in Caboolture, Redcliffe, Mater Redland and The Wesley hospitals.

It will be progressively rolled out across the state from September starting with Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, and then Beaudesert, Redland and the Gold Coast in October.

Healthy Hearing Program director Dr Rachael Beswick said the new Accuscreen device could complete a hearing screening in as little as 12 seconds, compared to the older Algo3 or 3i technology which could take up to seven minutes.

“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.”
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, it means 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 view the Healthy Hearing program page.