HSE Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme Screens over 200,000 babies

All newborn babies are offered a free hearing screen under the HSE Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme

Varadkar describes it as great example of benefits of universal screening

To date over 200,000 newborn babies in Ireland have been screened for hearing impairments, under the HSE’s universal newborn hearing screening programme.

This new screening service commenced on a phased basis in April 2011 and is delivered on behalf of the HSE by Northgate Public Services. It is now available in all maternity hospitals throughout Ireland with approximately 70,000 babies a year undergoing hearing screening.

All parents now have the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing tested shortly after birth. The test is provided free of charge usually before leaving the hospital when the baby is settled or asleep at the mother’s bedside. It is carried out by a trained hearing screener and only takes a few minutes. It does not hurt the baby and the results of the hearing screen are available immediately.
The screener places a small soft tipped earpiece in the outer part of the baby’s ear which sends clicking sounds down the ear. When an ear receives sound, the inner part, known as the cochlea, usually produces an echo. The screening equipment can pick up this echo. This type of screen is called an Automated Otoacoustic Emission (AOAE) screen.
·    In Ireland, one to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears.
·    On average 6,000 babies are screened each month; of these 180 babies (3%) are referred to the HSE Audiology Service for further hearing diagnostic assessments; and approximately 9 babies are identified with a permanent childhood hearing loss.
·    Some 90% of these babies are born into families with no experience, or history, of childhood deafness.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said: “This is a great example of the benefits of a universal screening programme. Thanks to this simple but effective screening procedure, over 370 cases of permanent childhood hearing impairment have been identified, allowing early treatment to be provided and better outcomes. Newborn babies also receive a heelprick tests for metabolic conditions, and at 10 months of age can have a developmental check. The health service also operates adult screening programmes for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, and retanopathy for people with diabetes. All have proven extremely effective.”

Universal newborn hearing screening identifies hearing impairment much earlier and coupled with timely audiology services, improves the life experience of identified children.
Dr. Gary Norman, National Clinical Lead for Audiology explains: “The screening programme aims to identify hearing impairment as soon as possible after birth. The earlier a hearing loss can be picked up in a baby, with timely access to high quality early intervention, the better outcome that baby will have in terms of developing speech and language skills, as well as developing social and emotional interactions from an early age.”

Babies, who do not get a clear response in one or both ears from the screening, are given an appointment to go to an Audiology Clinic (Hearing Clinic). Approximately 3 % of babies are referred from the screening programme to the HSE Audiology Service for more comprehensive assessment and are normally seen within four weeks of referral

Northgate Public Service’s Head of Screening Services Alan Campbell said: “We’re immensely proud of our work with HSE on infant screening. So far, through this life changing work over 300 babies in Ireland have been diagnosed with a Permanent Childhood Hearing Impairment. Thanks to that early diagnosis they all have a better chance at developing improved speech and language skills that will help them in life.”

Newborn hearing screening is a universal programme as over 50% of babies born with a hearing loss are to parents where there are no clear risks of hearing impairment.

The programme aims to identify moderate, severe and profound hearing impairment in newborn babies and is making a life changing difference to babies born each year with a moderate or greater hearing impairment.

The early detection of hearing loss, and the initiation of medical and educational interventions, has been demonstrated to significantly improve long-term outcomes for children with hearing loss and their families. Early identification, via the programme, gives babies a better ‘life chance’ of developing speech and language skills and of making the most of social and emotional interaction from an early age. While the detection of early hearing is vitally important to a child’s development, it also means that support and information can be provided to parents at an early stage.

For further information please visit www.newbornscreening.ie

-ENDS-Commencement Date    Maternity Hospital    No. Screened to date
09/11/2012    Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital    23,365
06/09/2012    Regional Hospital Mullingar    7,291
06/09/2012    Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise    5,652
27/11/2012    National Maternity Hospital Holles Street    25,110

15/10/2012    Cavan General Hospital    5,294
15/10/2012    Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda    9,886
08/09/2012    Rotunda Hospital    25,687

26/04/2011    Cork Maternity Hospital    36,377
29/11/2011    Kerry General Hospital    5,873
22/03/2012    South Tipperary General Hospital    3,958
02/03/2012    St Lukes General Hospital    6,312
07/11/2011    Waterford Regional Hospital    8,234
07/11/2011    Wexford General Hospital    7,704

30/04/2013    Letterkenny General Hospital    4,161
30/04/2013    Sligo General Hospital    3,428
09/09/213    Mayo General Hospital    3,359
23/07/2013    University College Hospital Galway    6,377
13/08/2013    Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe    4,181
11/11/2013    Limerick Regional Maternity Hospital    8,319
Total    200,568

Notes to Editors:

Universal newborn hearing screening seeks to identify all babies born with a congenital, unilateral or bilateral, moderate to profound Permanent Childhood Hearing Impairment (PCHI) before the baby is three months old.

If a baby is identified as having a PCHI then the baby is enrolled in an early intervention programme, which may include the fitting of hearing aids, before the baby is six months old.

Early identification is the springboard for the processes of diagnostic and habilitative audiological, medical and educational intervention. Comprehensive intervention and management programmes to meet the child’s needs along with support to the family are seen as natural extensions of a universal screening programme.

The first six months of a baby’s life is a critical period for learning to hear and speak. Communication and behavioural skills are influenced by a baby’s ability to hear. When hearing loss goes undetected or is detected later rather than sooner, this can lead to delayed speech and language development. This delay can also affect a child’s social interactions, emotional development and educational performance

Date: 13. 9. 2015