New study: long-term benefit of newborn hearing screening

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© Christian Schwier - Fotolia

Results of a new study carried out in the UK show that detecting hearing impairment (HI), and intervening at a critical early stage, can make a lifelong difference in literacy outcomes and development. The researchers from the University of Southampton and King’s College London carried out a prospective cohort study of a population sample of children with permanent childhood hearing impairment (PCHI) followed up for 17 years since birth. The study included 114 teenagers: 76 with PCHI and 38 with normal hearing.

Results showed that the early and late confirmed HI groups had mean reading comprehension z-scores that were 0.63 and 1.74 SDs below the mean reading z-score in the normal hearing comparison group. Teenagers who had their hearing impairment confirmed early (by nine months) had significantly higher adjusted mean z-scores than the later confirmed teenagers for reading comprehension and reading summarization.

“There is a sensitive period in early infancy when if the brain receives the right input, language will develop in a way that it rarely does if the right input is not received until later in life,” said Dr. Colin Kennedy, the study’s senior author and pediatric neurologist at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

Long-term follow-up in this study showed that the benefits of confirming hearing loss early, in terms of reading comprehension, increase during the teenage years. According to the authors, the results of the study strengthen the case for universal newborn hearing screening programs that lead to early confirmation of permanent hearing loss.

Source: Fox News; Pimperton H, et al. The impact of universal newborn hearing screening on long-term literacy outcomes: a prospective cohort study. Archives of disease in childhood. 2014 Nov 25.

C.S.