Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, introduced in Australia between 2002 and 2007, has led to earlier diagnosis of babies born with hearing loss. This means that very soon after birth, infants can receive early intervention (hearing devices, cochlear implants, speech pathology). We know early detection and early intervention improves outcomes for children with moderate, severe or profound hearing loss, but the same does not seem to apply for children with mild hearing loss. The reason for this lack of benefit is unclear.
Research on the impact of hearing aids for children with mild hearing loss is limited to a few small studies in older children, which had mixed findings regarding any benefit. Therefore, we do not know whether hearing aids benefit babies with mild hearing loss. This is an important issue, because it is now common for infants/children with mild hearing loss to be fitted with hearing aids. In 2017, Australian Hearing (the government-funded organisation that provides hearing services to all children with hearing loss under the age of 26 years in Australia) recorded that around 55% of hearing device fittings in Australian children less than 2 years old had mild hearing loss (2017 Australian Hearing Report)(1).
Mild Matters Qualitative Study
Since late 2017, Mild Matters chief investigators Dr Valerie Sung and Dr Teresa Ching have been collaborating on a qualitative study to understand the current practices, experiences and decision-making processes of audiologists who work with infants with bilateral mild hearing loss. The study also explores parents’ experiences and perceptions of the decision-making process around hearing aid fitting and the positive and negative effects of their infants with mild hearing loss wearing hearing aids. Results from this study will be available soon.
Mild Matters Trial
This study is a randomised controlled trial comparing outcomes of children less than 2 years old who are fitted with hearing aids (intervention) versus those are are not fitted with hearing aids.
The Mild Matters trial will help:
- Guide clinicians in managing children with mild hearing loss,
- Reduce the burdens that these families currently face, and
- Justify a costly intervention.