A team of healthcare workers who provide a vital screening service for tamariki is celebrating its 10 year anniversary.

Five screeners and one administrator have operated the Bay of Plenty District Health Board newborn hearing screening service since 2009. The service screens about 3000 newborn babies each year.

The service is part of the national Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Early Intervention Program.

Newborn hearing screening team lead Robin Matthews said the hardworking group work often went unnoticed.


"Hearing screening for newborns is not a particularly well-known service but it's crucial work for a child's development.

"Early identification and early intervention is critical for the prevention of permanent hearing loss in any child who may have an issue."

The anniversary was a celebration of the thousands of children the team had helped over the past decade, Matthews said.

Audiology and newborn hearing screening professional lead Erin Keach agreed.

"Before we had newborn hearing screening the average age of identifying a hearing loss was 4 years old," Keach said.

"We know that for brain and language development the most critical time is the first two years. That means hearing loss was being picked up too late in a lot of instances."

She said screening at an early age gave time and ability to intervene and support children with their hearing and language development.

Locally, three to four babies per 1000 screened were identified as having a permanent hearing impairment, in one or both ears, Keach said.

The screening worked by placing a piece of monitoring equipment with sensors over the ear of the newborn.


This played a soft clicking noise and the sensors measure how the auditory nerve responds to those.

The test was undertaken within the first month after birth.

It was offered to all mums of newborns and was performed when the baby was asleep and in a quiet environment, so no outside noises or stimuli affected the results.

Any baby who did not register a clear response on the first test was tested again.

If no clear response was given on the second test, the baby was referred to the audiology team.

Newborn hearing screener Glenys Berry said it was "a very satisfying feeling knowing the importance of the screening test and what you're potentially doing for the child".

Screener Jan Krause said the ramifications of hearing issues not being picked up could be profound.