Early diagnosis of hearing loss in babies can make a significant difference to their speech and language skills. This is according to Dr Brendan Paul Murphy, Consultant Neonatologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) who launched a free hearing-screening test for the hospital’s newborns this week.
The parents of the 9,000 babies born at CUMH annually are now being offered the test prior to being discharged from hospital. It is hoped that the screening will eventually be rolled out nationwide.
Statistics show that one to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears. Dr Murphy told the Cork News that the earlier that hearing loss can be picked up, the better the outcome will be. “There is no doubt that early diagnosis makes a remarkable difference to speech and language and makes the most of social and emotional interaction from an early age,” he said.
The non-invasive hearing test will be carried out by a trained hearing screener while the baby is settled or sleeping. Those babies in the special care baby unit at CUMH, who have a higher incidence of hearing loss, will be tested during their time in the unit while babies born through the HSE’s homebirths scheme will also be included in the programme. Any baby who does not have a clear response in one or both ears will be sent for a full audiological (hearing) assessment at an Audiology Clinic in CUH shortly after discharge.
Dr Murphy stressed that referral rates for babies to the Audiology Clinic will be relatively low, estimated at about 2-4% of all babies tested.
For information regarding hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing