Universal newborn hearing screening in Ireland: an update


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Universal newborn hearing screening makes it possible to identify hearing impairment early and, along with timely audiological treatment, can significantly improve quality of life and development in children found to have hearing loss. In April 2011, Ireland‘s national health service, the HSE (Health Service Executive) contracted Northgate Public Services to implement the country’s screening program.

The HSE reports that an important milestone was reached at the end of March. James Michael Murphy, born in Louisburgh, County Mayo, was the 100,000th baby in Ireland to be screened for hearing impairment under the program.

According to the report, about 75,000 babies a year are now undergoing hearing screening at all maternity units in Ireland. It is estimated that 1 to 2 newborns per 1,000 are born with some form of hearing loss. The HSE indicates that approximately 6,000 babies are screened each month and that about 3% of these are referred to an audiology service for further hearing assessments. This means that 180 babies are examined more closely, usually within one month of referral, and nine are generally found to have congenital, unilateral or bilateral, moderate to profound permanent childhood hearing impairment (PCHI).

Comprehensive intervention and management programs are then implemented to meet the needs of these children and to support their families. These services are considered to be a natural extension of the universal screening program. The report also mentions that some 90% of these babies are born into families that have no experience or history of childhood deafness, highlighting the value of systematic screening.

Source: Health Service Executive (HSE)