Relationship between congenital hearing loss, screening results, risk factors and other demographic variables: 10 years of evidence from a UNHS program database

Jane Fitzgibbons1, Dr Rachael Beswick1, Associate Professor Carlie Driscoll2, Kelly Nicholls1

1Healthy Hearing, Nundah, Australia,

2University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia


With universal newborn hearing screening now well established in many locations, we have the opportunity to analyse large databases and further explore relationships between hearing screening outcomes, risk factors and permanent childhood hearing loss (PCHL).

Queensland’s Healthy Hearing program utilises a 2-stage automated auditory brainstem response screen along with documentation of risk factors for postnatal hearing loss.  While the purpose of risk factor documentation is to enrol infants at risk of postnatal hearing loss into hearing surveillance, there is notable overlap between risk factors associated with perinatal and postnatal hearing loss.  Information available to the diagnostic audiology service about an infant referred directly from screening includes the screening outcome and the presence of risk factors.

Expanding on data presented at the 2017 ANHSC, this research analyses 10 years of data from the Healthy Hearing database for 6735 infants referred directly to audiology from screening.  Preliminary analysis indicates that over half the infants who referred bilaterally with perinatal infection, severe asphyxia, hyperbilirubinaemia and/or family history were diagnosed with the target condition (bilateral moderate or greater permanent hearing loss).  Prolonged ventilation was the risk factor least likely to be associated with target condition or any other PCHL.  Gender may affect odds of a hearing loss diagnosis following referral from screening.  Regression analyses and odds ratios were used to determine whether the screening outcome along with risk factors can be used to determine the likelihood of a hearing loss diagnosis in the neonatal period.

Findings from this study have the potential to alert hearing health professionals to infants at high risk of permanent childhood hearing loss so that particular effort can be made to facilitate diagnostic investigation.  Additionally, findings may inform parental counselling, clinical decision making, appointment preparation and efficient and appropriate clinical resource allocation.


Jane Fitzgibbons has conducted infant diagnostic assessments via TeleAudiology for Queensland’s Healthy Hearing Program since 2017 after working in various health sector and private practice roles overseas and in Australia.  Jane graduated from the University of Auckland’s Master of Audiology program in 1997 and completed a post-professional Doctor of Audiology (AuD) qualification from A.T. Still University (Arizona) in January 2019.  Her professional interests include re-immersing herself into the complex world of infant diagnostic audiology and crunching screening program data for the fascinating insights it can reveal.