Joondalup Health Campus
Part of Ramsay Health Care


Newborn Hearing Screens at Joondalup Health Campus

Apr 05, 2012

Baby Mackenzie Dawson was just one day old as her mother and the Joondalup Health Campus Newborn Hearing Screening team, prepared her for her first hearing screen.

Totally unaware of her audience, Mackenzie wakes momentarily to protest being moved but is comforted easily by the screening teams newest member, Barbara Leatherbarrow, who gently places the couplers – tiny headphones- over Mackenzies ears.

Tiny gel pads placed on her forehead, shoulder and back of her neck monitor her response to sounds as she sleeps. Thousands of soft clicks are delivered to the newborn’s ears through the disposable ear couplers. These sounds evoke a series of brain waves from the auditory brainstem.

“The response is then compared with the normal hearing of a newborn infant,” Barbara explains as she prepares for the screening.

The technical name for the screen used is ‘Automated Auditory Brainstem Response’  (AABR). It is a harmless and accurate measure of the auditory system from the external ear through to the auditory brainstem.

Joondalup Health Campus is the only public hospital in the state that has a 100 percent capture rate – meaning every baby is screened. The Newborn Hearing Screening team in the Maternity Unit have received extensive theoretical and practical training to conduct the screens and have screened more than 2000 babies in the past twelve months.

Co-ordinator of the Newborn Hearing Screening Program, Ms Meryl Biggs says everyone is enthusiastic about the program and the opportunity to provide all new babies with access to this service.

“An early diagnosis of a hearing impairment is critical to an infant’s speech and language development, so we’re very happy to be able to provide this peace of mind to new parents,” she said.

Hearing impairment is an invisible disability that affects approximately 300 babies in Australia each year.

Only about 25 percent of infants born with a hearing impairment in Australia were diagnosed by the age of 12-months. The average age of detection has been between two and three years of age prior to newborn hearing screening.

“Recent studies have shown that if a hearing loss is identified and intervention addressed prior to six months of age, the hearing-impaired child can develop speech and language skills in line with normal hearing peers.

“So the aim of this program is to identify early all those infants who may have a hearing problem, or be at risk. These babies may require further audiological evaluation in order to rule out a significant hearing loss.”

Meryl said since the screening program commenced in 2000, 38 babies have been referred for audiology assessment.

Mackenzie’s mother, Rebecca, can’t emphasise enough how important it is to know as early as possible if there is an issue with your baby’s hearing.

“The screen is so easy and simple without causing any stress to the baby and is a great reassurance for any new parent.”