Lessons we have learnt from working with complex children after diagnosis of infant hearing loss.

Dr Elizabeth Peadon1, Ms Deepali Trackroo1, Dr Beverley Bennett1, Dr Ken Peacock1

 1Deafness Centre, The Children’s Hospital At Westmead, Westmead, Australia


The Deafness Centre at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is a multidisciplinary paediatric child development service for children with permanent hearing loss.  In the Deafness Centre, we see 98 babies who have been diagnosed with permanent hearing loss through the Statewide Infant Screening – Hearing (SWISH) program each year.  Up to a one third of the babies will have complex medical issues.  The journey for each of these children is complicated and unique.  Each family will need an approach tailored to their child’s and family situation.  In addition to the usual pathways and supports for children with hearing loss, when working with complex children and their families, consideration needs to be given to the severity and stability of the child’s medical condition, the priority hearing has for the family compared to other medical issues, the competing demands on the family’s time and resources, care co-ordination, understanding the roles and maintaining communication with the multiple services working with the child and family, the impact the child’s medical conditions may have on their development, and the child’s life expectancy.

Consequently, complex children and their families have complex psychosocial and paediatric needs which need to be addressed when we meet with families at the Deafness Centre.  For infants diagnosed through the SWISH program, families routinely meet with both the social worker and developmental paediatrician in the Deafness Centre after diagnosis.  Through illustrative case examples, we will share the key lessons from a social worker and paediatrician that we use to guide our collaboration with families after diagnosis of permanent hearing loss in complex children.


Dr Elizabeth Peadon (MBBS, DCH, MPH, PhD, FRACP) is a developmental paediatrician and the Head of the Deafness Centre at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.  Dr Peadon works with children who have permanent hearing loss and their families regarding the aetiology of hearing loss, management and associated developmental issues.

Ms Deepali Trackroo is the social worker in the Deafness Centre.  She commences working with the families of SWISH infants at the time of diagnosis, providing psychosocial assessment and support.  She has extensive knowledge and experience of the challenges families of complex children face.