She was speaking ahead of an Assembly debate calling on Minister Swann to take urgent action to tackle lengthy waiting lists.
Said the Foyle MLA: “More than 7,000 people with hearing issues are still waiting for diagnostic tests.
“Many others are waiting for intervention, including surgery.
“Early intervention is crucial if young minds are to develop communication skills and acquire language, including Sign, to enable them to compete effectively with their hearing peers.
“Late diagnosis and delayed intervention is likely to have a life-long adverse impact on the wellbeing of children and young people with hearing difficulties.
“Poor communication skills can lead to disadvantage in education and employment but timely intervention can eliminate that.
“Because it’s not life-threatening, those with hearing impairment and deafness, are too often side-lined.
“But testing and treatment can’t wait.”