NZ Children’s Hearing At Risk
In the last ten years, the average age for identifying children born with hearing loss in New Zealand has increased from
two to nearly four years of age.
The international standard is three months.
Today a hearing sector-led project group met with the Minister of Disability Issues and the Labour Health Caucus to
present an evidence-based case for the introduction of a national newborn screening an early intervention programme.
Marianne Schumacher, Executive Manager for the National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) said the NFD strongly supports
this initiative and believes an early detection and intervention programme is essential to improve the educational,
social and emotional outcomes for children who are born with hearing impairment.
“A late diagnosis can significantly impact on a child’s ability to build the foundation skills to succeed educationally
and develop socially.
“One of the most serious problems resulting from late detection of hearing impairment is delayed language development
during the critical period for language acquisition. Lack of communication threatens the core qualities of life and can
result in emotional stress, depression and isolation. It also narrows vocational choice and reduces chances of
employment,” Ms Schumacher said.
The project group is headed by the Chairman of the NFD and Associate Professor of Audiology at Auckland University,
Peter Thorne said presenting the case has been something the sector has worked towards for a number of years.
“New Zealand quite possibly has the worst statistic in the developed world for the early detection of hearing loss. The
sector has been working towards the introduction of newborn screening for many years and this has culminated in the
delivery of an evidence based case to the Minister of Disability Issues today.
“Significant results have been seen in the small programmes that have been running in Gisborne and the Waikato. We now
want to see a national newborn screening and intervention programme that will detect and deal with the 170 babies that
are born with a hearing impairment every year,” said Mr Thorne.
The project group has strong support from a large number of organisations including the NZ Federation for Deaf Children,
Deafness Research Foundation, Hearing House, The Paediatric Society of NZ, The New Zealand Audiological Society, Royal
NZ Plunket Society and Royal NZ College of General Practitioners.