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Princess Margaret Hospital

Newborn Hearing Screening Program (WA)

Contact Information

Location

Princess Margaret Hospital for Children,
Roberts Road,
Subiaco WA 6008.

Phone (08) 9340 8366
Email hearingscreening@health.wa.gov.au

The WA Newborn Hearing Screening Program achieved state-wide coverage in 2010 and now screens in public, private, metropolitan and regional maternity services across WA.

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The Newborn Hearing Screen

Why screen your baby's hearing?

1-2 babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in both ears (bilateral hearing loss).

Newborn screening of babies enables hearing loss to be identified and managed quickly.

  • Early management helps your baby's speech, language and learning development.
  • Early intervention provides parents with support and information as soon as possible.

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How is the screen performed?

Your baby’s hearing will be screened by Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR). Three separate leads are placed on your baby’s forehead, back of the neck and behind the shoulder using adhesive pads.

A small earphone ‘cup’ is placed over your baby’s ears. This makes a sound, and the leads measure the response from your baby’s ears to that sound.

The screen doesn’t hurt your baby in any way.

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When is the screen performed?

Screening may be done anytime after your baby is 12 hours old. If your baby misses the hearing screen, please contact  your birth hospital.

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Results

The hearing screen measures your baby's hearing response at the time of the screen only. The results will be discussed with you straight after the screen and noted in your baby’s personal health record book.

In some babies an irregular result may occur due to something other than deafness such as:

  • Fluid or other matter that has entered the ear canal during the birth process.
  • Temporary middle ear fluid.
  • Your baby being too restless.

If there is any concern about the results, a follow-up screen will be recommended.

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Risk factors for hearing loss

A few rare causes of hearing loss are not picked up by the standard hearing screen. With some conditions, a baby's hearing may be normal at birth but gradually worsen over time.

Children with any of the risk factors listed below are reviewed by a paediatric audiologist between 8 and 12 months old:

  • A strong family history of permanent hearing loss from a young age.
  • Exposure to a congenital infection such as Toxoplasmosis, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes, or Syphilis.
  • Syndromes which are associated with hearing loss such as Down syndrome.

If your baby does have one of the above-mentioned risk factors, please inform the person who is performing the hearing screen.

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Milestones in your baby's hearing

Please contact your GP, child health nurse or paediatrician if at any time you have any concerns about your child's hearing ability or language development.

Please use these 'milestones' in hearing development to monitor your baby's hearing as they grow:

  • Birth to three months:
    • Is startled by or jumps when there is a sudden noise.
    • Stirs, wakes up or cries when someone talks or makes a noise.
    • Recognises your voice and quietens when you speak.

  • Three to six months:
    • Turns eyes towards interesting sound.
    • Appears to listen to voices and other sounds.
    • Awakes easily to sound.

  • Six to twelve months:
    • Turns head to soft sounds.
    • Understands "no" and "bye-bye".
    • Begins to copy speech sounds.

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Statistics on newborn hearing screening can be accessed through the state office. Email: hearingscreening@health.wa.gov.au

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