More than 97% of Australian children have their hearing screened within their first three months of life, thanks to committed advocates like the membership of the Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Committee (ANHSC), chaired by NextSense Institute Director Professor Greg Leigh.
The Committee worked tirelessly for the introduction of newborn hearing screening in Australia twenty years ago. Now, it is taking the next step: to consider what screening could look like beyond the newborn period and into childhood, as currently, there is no universal approach to screening children for hearing loss.
A virtual workshop held this month brought a wide range of industry stakeholders (more than 185 people) from Australia and New Zealand together to work towards consensus on approaches to screening for childhood hearing beyond universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) in Australasia.
Workshop participants explored options for screening in infancy, pre-school, and school-age children, to guide the process on seeking a consensus on approaches to detection of hearing loss.
Committee Chair Professor Greg Leigh says participants brought their open minds and ideas to the workshop.
— says Greg.
‘In preparation for [the workshop], we delved into a literature review conducted by the National Acoustic Laboratories, and a recent suite of Australasian surveys, to work towards consensus on what the future of childhood hearing screening could be.’
The workshop was the first of several steps towards developing consensus statements. It is expected the process will progress over the course of the year.
The ANHSC, a committee of the Deafness Foundation, aims to promote early detection and intervention for all Australian and New Zealand children who are deaf or have permanent hearing loss.
The current Australian Consensus Statement on Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening was ratified by the Australian National Hearing Screening Committee in November 2001. It was agreed on at a national forum in March 2001 in Adelaide, by more than 110 participants from every Australian state and territory—including audiologists, teachers of the deaf, neonatologists, paediatricians, otolaryngologists, nurses, epidemiologists, and parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
This major collaboration to take screening to the next stage is an important vehicle for like-minded organisations and professionals to achieve more for children with hearing loss.