Emerging evidence from the Children with Unilateral Hearing Loss (CUHL) study

Authors

Dr Teresa YC Ching1, Ms Laura Button, Ms Patricia Van Buynder, Ms Sanna Hou, Ms Vivienne Marnane, Ms Louise Martin, Ms Jessica Sjahalam-King, Mr Christopher Flynn, Dr Vicky Zhang;  (National Acoustic Laboratories, Sydney, Australia)

Background:
Universal newborn hearing screening programs effectively detect infants with hearing loss soon after birth, including those with unilateral hearing loss. Although there is some information on the impact of unilateral hearing loss on children, it is not known whether early fitting of hearing devices is beneficial for improving outcomes. Despite this, audiologists and families need to make decisions surrounding appropriate management, including the fitting of hearing devices.

Aim:
To determine whether early intervention improves outcomes of children detected with unilateral hearing loss soon after birth, and the factors influencing outcomes. We also aim to examine perspectives of parents and audiologists on early detection and intervention for unilateral hearing loss.

Method:
A prospective, population-based study, including 180 children detected with unilateral hearing loss via universal newborn hearing screening in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. About half of the children were fitted with hearing devices soon after diagnosis. Their hearing status, demographic information, functional performance, and usage of hearing device (for the fitted children) are examined at several intervals between 6 and 36 months of age. Information about language input is collected by using the LENA device at 12 and 36 months of age. Children’s speech and language abilities are assessed at 1 and 3 years of age using standardised measures. In addition, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 parents and 20 audiologists. The transcripts of the interviews are analysed using thematic analyses.

Results:
Interim findings on evolution of hearing loss, aetiology, language input environment and vocalisations will be reported. Hearing device usage for children who were fitted with hearing devices will be described.  In addition, preliminary findings on perspectives of audiologists and parents regarding early detection and intervention for unilateral hearing loss will be discussed.

Conclusion:
This study will generate evidence on the effectiveness of early fitting of hearing devices for improving early language outcomes that will form the basis of best practice management guidelines on management of unilateral hearing loss in young children.

About ANHSC

The Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Committee aims to foster the establishment, maintenance and evaluation of high quality screening programs for the early detection of permanent childhood hearing impairment throughout Australia and New Zealand.

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