Hearing impairment and hearing tests

What is a hearing impairment?

A hearing impairment can be diagnosed by an audiology test and is a temporary or permanent loss of hearing. A loss of hearing can be caused by a number of factors including: 

  • Injury
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Infection of the middle ear (otitis media)
  • Wax build-up or a foreign object in the ear canal
  • Excess mucus caused by a cold
  • Genetic disorders
  • Exposure before birth to a disease such as German measles (rubella)
  • Certain diseases such as meningitis.

Ttreatment for hearing impairment can include antibiotics, removal of foreign objects and wax, hearing aids, cochlear implants, and speech therapy. Find out more about ear problems in children in our fact sheets.

How do we help children who have a hearing impairment? 

Hearing services at the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network provide tertiary hearing and diagnostic services for at-risk and vulnerable groups who require continuity and support.

Hearing tests

Both the Hearing Support Services at Sydney Children’s Hospital and the Deafness Centre at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead participate in the state-wide Infant Screening-Hearing (SWISH) Service — the Network's Audiology services Audiology (hearing tests) test for hearing problems in children and babies.

Support services for children with a hearing impairment

The Deafness Centre (DC) at the Children's Hospital at Westmead provides a state-wide, fulltime service for any deaf or hearing-impaired child and their families where there is a problem associated with the hearing loss. The DC provides a range of services including:

  • Outpatient services to children diagnosed with permanent hearing loss through the SWISH programme
  • Comprehensive paediatric assessment to identify causes of hearing loss
  • Psychosocial support and advice to families and services to older deaf toddlers and children
  • Microtia Clinic

Hearing Support Services at Sydney Children's Hospital provide a part-time service supporting families of newly diagnosed children and their associated health care workers. The service was set up to meet the needs of children referred via the SWISH program. The multidisciplinary clinic consists of a paediatrician, genetic counsellor, audiologist and social worker. It provides timely access to a variety of experts in the one location as well as information and discussion about possible causes of hearing loss and various intervention strategies. The individual members of the team also provide an inpatient consultation service and outreach to disadvantaged and rural families.

Both the Hearing Support Services at Sydney Children's Hospital and the Deafness Centre at the Children's Hospital at Westmead participate in the state-wide Infant Screening-Hearing (SWISH) Service. This is a universal newborn hearing screening program that aims to identify all infants born with a suspected hearing loss and introduce them to appropriate services as soon as possible.

Both hospitals have a collaborative partnership with a number of other service providers in the delivery of the Cochlear Implant Program. The program provides screening, pre-operative assessment, surgical implantation, post-operative assessment and rehabilitation for children and adults with permanent bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The program operates through collaborative partnerships between the two hospitals and the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The Shepherd Centre.