Born To Hear
First Published: Investigator - September 2003
Nurses and doctors at Flinders are now able to detect hearing impairments in all newborns following the recent launch of the Variety Newborn Hearing Screening Program.
In South Australia approximately 25 infants per year are profoundly deaf and require either a hearing aid or cochlear implant to enable acquisition of speech and most infants remain undiagnosed until 18-24 months of age.
The new screening program tests newborns with a handheld Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) device. The non-invasive test is performed while the baby is asleep and around eight percent of healthy babies are expected to fail this test. However, approximately half of these babies will respond to a repeat test.
Babies who have not responded to initial testing and infants at a high risk of congenital deafness will undergo further testing using an Auditory Brainstem Evoked Response (ABR) machine. This detects and diagnoses problems in the inner ear and the hearing nerve responsible for transmission of information to the brain.
"Hearing impairments should be diagnosed and treated by the age of 6 months if the child is to develop normal speech. This new technology is the only way in which serious hearing impediments can be detected in time for early intervention" says Associate Professor Peter Marshall, Director of the Flinders Medical Centre’s Division of Women and Children,
Approximately 3,000 babies are born each year at Flinders.
The $80,000 screening program is possible thanks to funding for equipment from Variety the Children’s Charity, The Department of Human Services, The Australian Hotels Association SA, FMC Foundation Precious Possums, FMC Audiology and Flinders University Speech Pathology and Audiology.