NSW Statewide Infant Screening - Hearing (SWISH) Program
What is the SWISH Program?
The NSW Statewide Infant Screening - Hearing (SWISH) Program aims to identify all babies born in NSW with significant permanent bilateral hearing loss by 3 months of age, and for those children to be able to access appropriate intervention by 6 months of age.
Why does your baby need a health check?
Identification of significant hearing loss is achieved through universal hearing screening of all newborns.
About one to two in every 1,000 babies has significant hearing loss. The SWISH program aims to identify babies born with significant hearing loss and introduce them to appropriate services as soon as possible after birth.
How does the screening program work?
Each Area Health Service has a SWISH Coordinator responsible for implementing and managing the screening program across all facilities in their Area.
This model allows SWISH Coordinators flexibility to meet unique needs in their Area Health Service. SWISH Coordinators have adopted innovative approaches to ensure maximum screening capture, such as service agreements with private hospitals and employing dedicated screeners to meet local needs, for example Aboriginal people and people from CALD populations.
How are hearing problems diagnosed?
Technology is available to diagnose hearing problems in the neonatal period. Early identification and intervention are important, with research suggesting that intervention commencing by 6 months of age may result in optimal speech and language development and minimise the need for ongoing special education.
The screening section of the program involves the screening of all newborns in NSW using Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) technology.
If newborns do not pass hearing screening they are referred for diagnostic audiological assessment. Parent/carer brochures describing the SWISH program are available in English and 25 other community languages, in both paper form and Resources page on our website.
SWISH diagnostic audiology services are provided through the three tertiary paediatric hospitals which are the acute care hubs of the three statewide paediatric services networks. Newborns receive an audiological diagnosis, as well as medical assessments to assist with selecting appropriate intervention.
The SWISH Travel program entitles babies and a parent, who live more than 100 km one way from one of the three SWISH assessment facilities, to be reimbursed for travel if the baby has been identified for follow-up diagnostic audiology services following screening for hearing under the SWISH program.
More info about the SWISH Travel Assistance Scheme.
What happens next?
Following diagnosis, newborns are referred to intervention services appropriate to the degree of hearing loss, specific medical diagnosis and parental preference, eg. hearing aids, cochlear implant.