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Newborn hearing screening: decision time for Australia

Melissa A Wake
Med J Aust 2002; 177 (4): 172-173.
Published online: 19 August 2002

Australia does not do well in the early detection of congenital hearing impairment. Only about 25% of infants born with hearing impairment are diagnosed by the age of 12 months, and for many children deafness remains a disability leading to severe and lasting language impairment.1 The technology for newborn hearing screening has now been in regular use in many parts of the world for much of the past decade, and there is at last some persuasive evidence that very early detection helps these children achieve normal language skills.2,3 This evidence is far from perfect: 4 only one randomised controlled trial of detection rates with and without newborn screening has been reported, and no randomised controlled trial has yet examined outcomes of hearing screening. Nonetheless, universal newborn hearing screening has become not only possible but expected in the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom and many European countries. However, it has not yet been widely implemented in Australia. As a result, the excellent diagnostic and rehabilitative services available to all Australian children once the diagnosis of hearing impairment has been made contrasts strongly with our patchy and very incomplete ascertainment of hearing impairment in the first year of life.

  • Melissa A Wake

  • Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, VIC.


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