NSW State Wide Infant Screening Hearing Program – SWISH
About one to two babies out of every 1,000 babies born will have hearing loss.
Why SWISH is important
The NSW State Wide Infant Screening Hearing Program (SWISH) program finds babies that are born with permanent hearing loss.
By the time children say their first words, they have been listening to the way we talk for about a year. Hearing problems can cause speech and language problems later in life. It’s important to find and help babies with hearing loss early so that they have better outcomes, that is why the SWISH program tests babies hearing soon after birth.
Testing hearing early and commencing support by 6 months of age may reduce the need for special education later on in life.
In most cases a trained hearing screener will test your babies hearing in hospital following birth. If you have your baby at home, or go home not long after the birth, you will be contacted by the SWISH Co-ordinator to arrange a time to test babies hearing.
A trained hearing screener will screen your baby when they are asleep or resting quietly. You are welcome to stay with your baby while the screen is being done. The screener will place small sensor pads on your baby’s head and play soft clicking sounds into the baby’s ears through an earphone. The sensor pads record your baby’s responses to the sounds. The screen usually does not unsettle the baby. The screen may take 10-20 minutes to complete.
As soon as the test is complete, your baby’s results will be explained and will be recorded in your baby’s personal health record (Blue book). Passing the test means your baby can hear whisper quiet noises in both ears.
Some babies will be referred directly to audiology assessment, even if they pass their initial test. This is because some babies are at increased risk of hearing loss, such as babies with cleft palates or Down Syndrome.
What happens if my baby does not pass the hearing screen?
If your baby does not pass the initial screening test it does not mean that your baby has hearing loss. Often this result happens because the baby has fluid in their ears following birth or is unsettled.
If a hearing loss is detected, parents are advised on appropriate intervention such as grommets, hearing aids, cochlear implant or signing.
Monitoring your child’s hearing as they grow
Hearing may not remain the same over time. It is important to monitor your baby’s speech and language development and their responses to sound.
If you are worried about your child’s hearing or speech and language development as they grow, arrange to have your child’s hearing tested. Ask your family doctor for a referral. Hearing can be tested at any age.