We should screen every baby, right?

Mrs Gabrielle Kavanagh1, Ms Felicity Hood1, Dr Zeffie Poulakis1, Dr  Melinda Barker1, Ms Alison Jagger1

1Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program, Parkville, Australia


A number of infants are referred to audiology without completing the screen, despite being eligible. The Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program (VIHSP) reviewed its criteria for direct referral to audiology without screening, and the resulting procedure, rationale and data are described here.


VIHSP gathered information from Australasian and the UK Newborn Hearing Screening (NHS) programs regarding their exclusion and screening criteria, and reviewed best practice and literature. Procedures regarding who qualified for a direct refer were developed; reporting methodology was reviewed, and information and training was provided to VIHSP staff in relation to the revised procedures. In late 2015, the new VIHSP Direct Refer criteria were released.


Changes were made to data extraction to more accurately reflect patient status. During training, management staff raised concerns that parents whose babies missed the screen, who previously had the option to be referred to audiology without a screen, would decline or be lost to follow-up if they were now offered a screen only.

Data from prior to release of the revised protocol (DOB 2012 – 2015) were compared with data following its release (DOB 2016). These demonstrate a decrease in the number of directly referred infants (between 70 – 120 direct referrals per year for DOB 2012-2015 to 44 direct referrals in 2016), an increase in attendance at diagnostic audiology (outcomes available for 91%), and evidence that this change did not have a negative impact on participation (increased 0.1% from 2015 to 2016) in the hearing screening program.


Gabrielle Kavanagh is a senior project officer with the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program who commenced as a hearing screener in 2007. Since then, Gaby sought opportunities to manage screening locally and regionally as an area and senior area manager and in 2011 changed roles within the VIHSP team to settle within the projects team. Gaby has worked on a variety of projects relating to screening delivery, information systems, resources and data management. She relishes projects and innovative change which promote best practice in all aspects of screening delivery and data collection and reporting.