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Update on newborn hearing screening

The Ministry of Health appreciates there is considerable public interest in this issue of newborn hearing screening, however our priority is to ensure that families affected are communicated with first in regard to the findings and recommendations contained in the report.

The results of the review will be covered fully in the report expected to be released in the New Year.

The irregularities were picked up at Auckland DHB, where a baby was being screened and the parents said the baby had already had their hearing tested but there were no results recorded in the system.

That prompted staff to look into the issue and these irregularities were subsequently found.

DHBs infants with irregular screening results:

  • 431 – Auckland
  • 176 – Hutt
  • 517 – Canterbury
  • 378 – Lakes
  • 542 – Bay of Plenty
  • 33 – Waitemata

Each DHB has been through a full data review down to the level of reviewing data for each individual screener.  As a result we found that six DHBs have known irregularities and two others are still providing information.

Key changes already implemented have been to include more frequent and more detailed monitoring of screening data generated by the screening at both at DHB and Ministry level.

The data review picked up irregularities from which we were able to identify babies not screened correctly and it is these babies whose families have been invited to be rescreened.  Some DHBs have also taken the precautionary measure of inviting a wider group of families to have their babies rescreened.

The Ministry is still working with Waikato and Hawkes Bay on the process of reviewing their data.  Information about whether there are any irregularities at Waikato and Hawkes Bay DHBs will be known in the early part of next year.

Most babies are screened while infants are a few days old while still in hospital following birth.

Generally screening staff are DHB employees.

Eight screeners working within the six DHBs at the time when the irregularities in screening occurred, no longer work within the programme.

As far as we are aware screeners involved in the newborn hearing programme only screen newborns and infants.

The DHBs have managed the recall process very well.  The majority of screeners perform competently and the programme has coped well with continuing to screen babies as well as manage rescreening.


For more information:

Marian Mortensen
Principal Advisor Sector Relationships & Engagement
National Health Board
Ministry of Health
DDI: (04) 816 4319
021 413 887


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