This report contains the findings and recommendations of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Group (UNHSAG) to the National Screening Unit (NSU) regarding high-level policy and implementation issues for a potential future universal newborn hearing screening programme (UNHSP) for New Zealand. This report will contribute to the development of policy by the NSU and its advice to the Ministers of Health, Education and Social Development regarding a possible UNHSP for New Zealand.
Congenital hearing loss is a significant health and disability issue, affecting 135–170 newborns each year. Māori are disproportionately affected, accounting for 46 percent of all deafness notifications.
Two recent evidence-based reports have recommended the introduction of newborn hearing screening and early intervention. The National Screening Unit responded to this evidence, at the Minister of Health’s request, with a project to consider newborn hearing screening.
One component of that project was to establish an advisory group to identify issues and make high-level policy recommendations. This report presents the main findings and recommendations of that group.
The UNHSAG strongly endorses the introduction of a universal newborn hearing screening programme for New Zealand to address the late age of detection and delayed and poorly coordinated intervention services for children with significant hearing loss in New Zealand. This would align New Zealand with other developed countries and allow New Zealand infants and their families to maximise the benefits of early intervention choices. Sixteen recommendations are made by the UNHSAG covering the purpose, scope, implementation, operational aspects and infrastructural requirements of a universal newborn hearing screening programme for New Zealand.