HSE Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme Screens the 100,000th baby

1 April 2014
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All newborn babies are being offered a free hearing screen usually prior to going home from hospital under the HSE’s Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme.

James Michael Murphy was the 100,000th baby in Ireland to be screened for hearing impairments, under the HSE’s universal newborn hearing screening programme, provided by Northgate Public Services, which is available at hospitals throughout Ireland.
James, who was born at Castlebar Hospital in February and mum Elizabeth, from Westport, County Mayo, were delighted to have clear responses from the hearing screen delivered by screener, Sinead Courtney.
  • 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.

The HSE contracted the services of Northgate Public Services, who provide universal newborn hearing screening in all maternity hospitals in Ireland. They are also a leading provider of IT and Transformation services. 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 explained: “The screening programme aims to identify hearing impairments as soon as possible after birth. The earlier a hearing loss can be picked up in a baby, 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.”

Northgate’s Executive Director Joe Bradley said: This is a life-changing public service which is helping the HSE with early detection, whilst bringing long-term benefits to children and their families in Ireland. So far, there have been 144 babies in Ireland diagnosed with a Permanent Childhood Hearing Impairment since we started screening and parents have been very grateful to have an early diagnosis.”

Alan Campbell, Northgate’s Head of Screening Solutions, commented: “We are delighted to reach this milestone and to see that so many babies in Ireland have had the opportunity to be screened under this vital service since it commenced in April 2011. Northgate offers a range of screening services besides the hearing screening, including Newborn Blood Spot Screening and Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening, which all have the health and wellbeing of the public at heart. We look forward to continuing to work with the HSE in developing this and other services for the citizens of Ireland.”

The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme

The national rollout of the universal newborn hearing screening, to all maternity hospitals across Ireland, offers all parents the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing tested shortly after birth. The test is provided free of charge, and is normally carried out at the mother’s bedside and doesn’t hurt the baby.

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.

Why should newborn babies have their hearing tested?

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