Successful 7th Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Conference

Jane McEntee, Group Manager, National Screening Unit
National Screening Unit Group Manager Jane McEntee addresses the conference.
The theme of the 7th Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Conference held in May in Auckland was ‘nurture grow enrich’.

The conference provided plenty of opportunities for the 240 delegates from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to share and learn.

It brought together a wide range of people and perspectives involved in newborn hearing screening and early intervention, including screeners, co-ordinators, audiologists, early intervention workers, researchers and parents. Sessions, including the powhiri, were complemented by New Zealand sign language interpreters (except the screener and audiology workshops), and the keynote addresses were captioned.

The programme included three keynote addresses, a panel discussion, three workshops and 46 concurrent presentations. An exhibitor area with 11 stands also provided delegates with information on screening and diagnostic equipment, hearing aids/cochlear implants, parent support networks and early intervention services.

This was the first time the Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Conference has been held in New Zealand. It was hosted collaboratively by the Ministries of Health and Education. The topics covered in the concurrent sessions were:

  • cultural issues in screening
  • parental experiences at point of identification 
  • cross collaboration and multidisciplinary team approaches to newborn screening 
  • maintaining motivation and quality in established screening programmes
  • effective evidence-based ways of delivering early intervention programmes.

The first day opened with a powhiri led by Piripi Davis, a Ngati Whatua representative, followed by a message of welcome from the Associate Minister of Health, Jo Goodhew, read by Jill Lane, Director, National Services Purchasing, Ministry of Health.

The two keynote speakers, Gwen Carr from the United Kingdom and Capi Wever from the Netherlands, provided stimulating presentations. Dr Wever’s keynote address ‘Newborn hearing screening – why did we start it, what are we achieving and where do we want to go?’ challenged delegates to consider the effectiveness of the outcomes we achieve for families of hearing-impaired children.

Gwen Carr, in her keynote address ‘Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts’, reinforced the importance of keeping the distinction between outputs and outcomes in planning and service development and in measuring quality.
A plenary session was held on the first day that addressed the recent incident in the newborn hearing screening programme where a few screeners were identified as not following protocol and considered future quality improvements in screening. Panel members included:

  • Jane O’Hallahan, Clinical Director, National Screening Unit (Chair)
  • Jane McEntee, Group Manager, National Screening Unit
  • Moira McLeod, UNHSEIP Programme Leader, National Screening Unit
  • Kylie Bolland, UNHSEIP Coordinator & Audiologist, Hutt Valley DHB
  • Andrew Keenan, Quality and Safety, Auckland DHB
  • Zeffie Poulakis, Director, Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Australia.

The plenary session explored the incident from a number of different perspectives alongside the learnings for quality improvements to screening both in New Zealand and Australia.

The conference also included three workshops over the two days for different disciplines – newborn hearing screeners, audiologists and early intervention staff.

Over 70 screeners attended the newborn hearing screener workshop entitled ‘Enhancing communication’. The workshop included role play scenarios on screening under pressure, giving results to families and working with other health professionals. Screeners also had the opportunity to hear the views of a parent who has a child with a hearing impairment.

A paediatric audiology up-skilling workshop was attended by 64 audiologists. Topics covered included the management of complex populations and development of a national protocol for audiological assessment.
Ninety-three delegates attended an early intervention workshop run by Capi Wever and Gwen Carr entitled ‘The philosophical framework of informed choice: from theory into practice in early intervention and support for families’. This session examined the theoretical framework and principles of informed choice and the challenges of translating philosophy into practice in early intervention and support for families.

The second day was opened by Victoria Lessing from Deaf Aotearoa. Fortuitously, the conference was held in the same week as New Zealand Sign Language Week and Victoria was able to step the audience through the concepts and some phrases in sign language.

Two concurrent sessions were held on Saturday with presentations exploring evidence-based ways of delivering early intervention programmes, maintaining motivation and quality assurance, cochlear implant discussions and supporting families.

The Conference was closed with a farewell led by Esther Davis (Ngati Whatua) and Aroha Harris (Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi).

Feedback from those who attended the conference included:

Wow the conference was awesome, – I think it was one of the best conferences I have been too. I especially liked both the keynote speakers.

It was the best one I have been to yet.

Has reminded me of my important vital role as a hearing screener in a newborn’s life.

Really helpful seeing results of incidents and videos of parents’ views of pathway – made me think of how I give results to parents and make sure they understand.

We found the panel discussion very interesting and appreciate the openness and transparency in discussing the incident.

Having screening, audiology and early intervention folk together showed great collaboration and made this one of the best conferences I have been to.

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Page last updated: 27 June 2013