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Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening

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What is the Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Program?

The Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Program (UNHS) is a statewide service coordinated by the Women's and Children's Health Network in South Australia. The Program provides free hearing screening to all new born babies to ensure early detection and implementation of intervention strategies for hearing loss.

The process: From early hearing screening to early intervention

In the first few weeks of life your baby will have several routine health checks. One of these checks offered is a free newborn hearing screen. The hearing screen is performed prior to discharge from hospital by the midwife or designated screener and is most often performed at the baby’s bedside.  South Australia uses Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) assessment to check the baby’s hearing status. This technology is a valid and reliable method of determining whether a baby has a significant hearing loss or not.

If a pass results is not obtained in one or both ears, a second AABR will be offered by your local Child and Family Health Nurse. If a pass results is not obtained following two valid hearing screens, further assessment by an audiologist is recommended. The Child and Family Health nurse will refer the child to the Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Program for further assessment.

The aim of the hearing test is to get a complete picture of the baby’s hearing.  Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) is the main test given to babies.  The ABR records the ear nerves response to sounds.  The test can show the degree of hearing loss in both ears.  In most instances, the audiologist will be able to inform the parents about the hearing results on the day of the assessment.

If the baby is found to have a hearing loss, they will be referred to the appropriate specialist and intervention services.

Pamphlets about your baby's hearing screening

Download PDF Your baby's hearing screening (290kb)

Download PDF Your baby's follow-up hearing screening  (285kb)

Download PDF Your baby's diagnostic assessment (238kb)

Customer Feedback Form

PDF document Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Customer Feedback (1mb)

Vision and Mission of the UNHS Program

To provide best practice in newborn hearing screening through a specialised statewide service, ensuring all infants with significant permanent hearing loss are identified and actively involved in family focused intervention. The Program achieves this by:

  • providing a sensitive and supportive service that is accessible and responsive to the needs of all families
  • ensuring that new born babies receive complete hearing screening by 30 days of age
  • ensuring that all infants identified receive appropriate audiological assessment by 12 weeks of age
  • ensuring that all infants with confirmed PCHI be actively involved in family focused intervention by 6 months of age
  • working with service partners to maintain and improve service delivery
  • providing education, training and ongoing development through expertise in the area of newborn hearing
  • promoting newborn hearing screening in the community
  • being a leading centre of excellence in research, improving best practice in newborn hearing screening.

Values

  • Professional - Responsive - Accountabe
  • Supportive - Sensitive - Respectful
  • Caring - Honest - Empathetic
  • Flexible - Committed - Compassionate

History

Background

With technologies for newborn hearing screening in regular use internationally by the mid-1990s, a lack of such programs in Australia continued to result in a delay in the detection of hearing loss until later stages of infant development.

While an infant hearing screening program was operating in Victoria from 1992, this program focused on providing detection and intervention strategies for high risk infants before the age of one year, rather than universal hearing screening services at birth.

Western Australia was the first Australian state to trial universal newborn hearing screening, gradually introducing screening services across maternity hospitals in Perth in 2000.

South Australia commenced its pilot program in August 2002 across three metropolitan hospitals and two country hospitals, establishing protocols for a statewide Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Program (UNHS).

A National Newborn Hearing Screening Committee was formed in 2004 to lobby the Commonwealth Government for permanent newborn hearing screening programs to be implemented across Australia, and in the same year the South Australian Minister for Health announced that the UNHS Program would be permanently funded and implemented across the state by the end of 2005.

A statewide rollout of the UNHS Program was completed in February 2006, incorporating the 33 birthing and 12 non-birthing hospitals in South Australia.

Newborn hearing screening programs facilitating early assessment and management of neonatal hearing loss are now in various stages of development and implementation across all Australian states and territories.

Program staff

Includes:

  • Program Manager
  • Paediatric Audiologists
  • WCH Screeners
  • Data Entry
  • Administration officer

Topics about hearing and hearing loss

  • Hearing and hearing loss - includes
    • is your baby hearing noises?
    • middle ear problems
    • permanent hearing loss
    • how is a child's hearing tested?
    • how big is a child's hearing loss?
  •  Children with hearing loss - includes
    • what is hearing loss (impairment)?
    • different types of hearing loss (impairment)
    • causes of hearing loss (impairment)
    • treatment.
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