Universal hearing screening for newborns in Taiwan: increasing coverage


© V.Duflot

A universal newborn hearing screening program has been advocated in Taiwan since 1998, but coverage initially remained low. Since the Taiwanese government decided to subsidize infant hearing screening fully, significantly higher coverage rates have been achieved, demonstrating the importance of third-party funding.

Physicians and researchers from several hospitals in Taipei City recently published the results of their joint program which aimed to set up an ideal method of newborn hearing screening in the city, ensuring high coverage rates, low discharge referral rates, and high follow-up. Another essential criterion was early intervention, as the key to clinical outcomes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cited by the authors, a minimum of 95% of newborns in the target population should be screened successfully for a program to be considered effective. A rate of only 10% had been reported in Taiwan, and often only newborns at high risk were screened.

The screening program set up by the research group in Taipei enrolled some 20 hospitals and 14 obstetric clinics in the city, and screened 15,790 infants of the 15,930 babies born in these units over the 15-month study. They reached a coverage rate of 99.1%, and good follow-up levels of 94.4% were achieved. Newborns were screened by automatic auditory brainstem response shortly after birth, and then after 36 to 60 hours if they failed the first test. This pre-discharge double screening strategy helped to maintain a low referral rate of just 1%.

Source: Huang HM, et al. The universal newborn hearing screening program of Taipei City. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 2013 Oct;77(10):1734-7; Taipei Times