Taranaki DHB reviews newborn hearing screening results

10 October 2013

A recent review of an aspect of Taranaki District Health Board’s (Taranaki DHB) Newborn Hearing Screening Programme has identified 60 babies and infants who may not have been screened fully for possible hearing loss between April 2009 and May 2010.

Taranaki Newborn Hearing Screening Coordinator Mary Bird says parents of infants in the identified group have been contacted and offered the opportunity to re-test their child including a full B4 Schools health check. “In all cases, infants in this group were identified as being ‘well babies’ with no known hearing loss risk factors,” says Mrs Bird.

“This means the probability of a hearing screen test identifying a child in this group as having a hearing loss is very low,” she adds.

“Providing timely, quality care to our patients, regardless of age, is a key priority for Taranaki DHB. We have not delivered this for approximately 5 per cent of the 1158 babies and infants screened between April 2009 and May 2010,” says Mrs Bird.  “We sincerely regret that this may have been a missed opportunity to identify hearing loss at the earliest possible stage.

Mrs Bird said there had been a failure in approx 5 per cent to follow approved protocols for this screening, and consequently the possible under-referring of some babies on to the second stage of screening.

“The DHB has looked closely at training and supervision to ensure that no repeats of this situation recur.  I want to emphasise that screening programmes are strictly controlled with protocols to prevent issues like this occurring, but that even with strict protocols in place, error can still occur.  The need for careful monitoring of results is borne out by the fact that we were able to identify these problems,” she said

“We apologise to parents and infants, not only for the issues with the screening, but for any anxiety or concern they are experiencing as a result. “We are confident that we have identified all infants that may require re checking, no matter how minimal the risk,” she adds.

The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme aims to identify newborns with hearing loss early so they can access appropriate assistance as soon as possible, leading to better outcomes for these children as well as their families/whānau and society.

Babies and infants are seen by other health agencies at various stages in their early lives and developmental assessments are undertaken on a regular basis. This provides further opportunity to identify hearing loss at an early stage.

If any parent has a concern about their child’s hearing, it is important to discuss it with their GP or Well Child Provider. Referral to audiology can be made at anytime if there are concerns about hearing loss or the development of a baby or infant.

The Screening Service is working with the National Screening Unit  and other DHBs to ensure these protocols are always followed in the future.


For further information contact:

Sue Carrington
Media Adviser
Ph 021 367 789

Last updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013

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