Aim: To report the preliminary findings of a pilot program to screen newborn babies for congenital bilateral permanent hearing loss.
Setting: The five largest maternity hospitals in Perth, Western Australia. Screening was gradually introduced over seven months from February to August 2000.
Participants: All babies born at these hospitals after the introduction of hearing screening until 30 June 2001.
Methods: One or both of two automated screening devices were used: one measuring transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) and the other automated auditory brainstem responses (AABR). If a "pass" was not obtained in both ears, screening was repeated. All babies who did not obtain a pass in either ear at follow-up were referred for audiological assessment.
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of permanent bilateral hearing loss.
Results: Of 13 214 eligible babies, 12 708 (96.2%) received screening. The main reason for missing screening was early hospital discharge (309; 2.3%). Of the screened babies, 99% had a pass response in both ears at either the initial or follow-up screen. Twenty-three babies were referred for audiological assessment, and nine were diagnosed with bilateral permanent hearing loss (0.68/1000; 95% CI, 0.31-1.28).
Conclusions: Despite our program meeting process quality indicators, our detection rate was low. Before extending the program to smaller hospitals, we need to validate our screening instruments and put in place a system to monitor false negative results.