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October 2019

Dr Valerie Sung jpeg
Dr Valerie Sung

Guidelines for children with hearing impairment

A network of health experts has produced Australia’s first national guidelines for the medical management of children with hearing loss.

More than 12,000 Australian children have a significant hearing impairment and, on average, one child is identified with hearing loss every day.

A working group of 15 childhood hearing Australasian medical professionals (CHAMP) network members developed the guidelines based on bilateral versus unilateral hearing loss, clinical presentation and availability and quality of evidence.

Published in the latest edition of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the guidelines recommend that all children with any type of hearing loss should have cytomegalovirus (CMV) salivary testing within 21 days of birth.

CMV, acquired during pregnancy, is the most common infective cause of hearing loss.

Children with non-syndromic bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss that is not associated with other signs and symptoms – should also have an MRI scan, genetic testing, audiology testing of family members and an eye/vision exam.

Dr Valerie Sung, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, chairs the CHAMP network.

She said the guidelines would help streamline the management of cases and early-stage medical management needed to be improved to offer families correct and timely testing and reduce potentially-unnecessary tests and referrals.

She said all hearing-impaired children should have a comprehensive medical history and examination.

‘When a child is diagnosed with hearing loss, it is a very stressful time for the family,’ Dr Sung said.

‘The last thing they need to deal with is multiple, potentially unnecessary, medical tests, appointments and referrals to specialists.

‘Appropriate tests, when offered at the right time, could help direct management and reduce the stress families face when searching for an answer to the cause of their child’s hearing loss.’

The guidelines will be used by paediatricians, otolaryngologists and geneticists and will also be helpful for general practitioners in Australia.

Researchers from Queensland Children’s Hospital, Gold Coast University Hospital, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Monash Health, the Royal Children’s Hospital, the Monash Children’s Hospital and the Victorian Clinical Genetics Services also contributed to the findings.

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