When early diagnosis and early intervention don’t happen early

Ms Alison Jagger1,3, Dr Zeffie Poulakis1,2,3,4, Dr Melinda Barker1,2,3,4, Mrs Danielle Edgar1,3

1Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program, Parkville,, Australia,

2Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville,, Australia,

3The Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville,, Australia,

4The University of Melbourne, Carlton,, Australia


The majority of infants diagnosed with a target hearing loss (bilateral, permanent, moderate or greater degree) following newborn hearing screening in Victoria reach the benchmarks of being screened by one month of age, diagnosed by three months of age, and engaged in intervention by six months of age. This project aimed to investigate explanations for why some infants with target hearing loss do not reach these benchmarks.


The VIHSP databases were interrogated to establish the ages at which infants with target hearing loss, completed screening, diagnosis and commencement of intervention. Records of infants who fell outside the benchmarks were reviewed to ascertain contributing factors.


Of the 155,286 babies screened in Victoria born in 2014 and 2015, 1597 were referred to diagnostic audiology, and 129 were diagnosed with a target hearing loss.

Of these 129, twenty three infants had their second screen after one month of age, twenty seven were diagnosed later than three months of age, nineteen were first fitted with hearing aids after they were six months of age, and thirty commenced early intervention after the age of six months.

While prematurity contributed to delays in 54% of babies where the benchmarks were not met, there are a number of other, potentially modifiable, factors leading to delays.


While there is limited capacity to alter some of the baby and family factors that may lead to delays in the detection and intervention pathway, there are opportunities for improvement in systems issues to minimise delays.


Dr Melinda Barker is a senior clinical neuropsychologist who commenced with the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in 1995. She was instrumental in the administration and evaluation of the original Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program, which has been running since 1992. Melinda has worked on a variety of research projects and programs relating to children’s health, learning and development.  Melinda has been Co Director of the Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program since it commenced in 2005 and also works clinically in the department of Rehabilitation at the Royal Children’s Hospital.