National Newborn Hearing Screening Programme goes live in the North West

7 May 2013

Article published 01/05/13 in the HSE (Health Service Executive)

1 to 2 babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss; most of these babies are born to families with no history of such loss. Early diagnosis, treatment and support have a significant impact on the baby'sdevelopment, speech & language, education and help him or her to achieve their full potential in life.

During 2013, the HSE West will commence a phased introduction of the National Newborn Hearing Screening Programme. The first hospitals to go live in the West are Letterkenny General Hospital and Sligo RegionalHospital on 30th April. The new service provides a routine hearing screening test to new borns (usually whilst they are still in the hospital). The test is a quick and simple way to check a newborn baby's hearing.

Consultant Paediatricians and Ear Nose and Throat Surgeons in Letterkenny General Hospital and Audiology Staff at the hospital and in the community welcome this initiative and new service.

Speaking on their behalf, Paddy Rooney, Assistant General Manager, Letterkenny General Hospital said "We welcome this initiative and new service. This is an important test for new born babies and will enable us to identify babies who have a hearing impairment at a very early stage. The earlier we can diagnose children the sooner we can provide the additional supports they and their families will require. We know that children with undiagnosed hearing impairment have issues with speech, language and education. Our goal is to ensure that all babies have a hearing test soon after birth to identify if there are any problems and to reassure parents. I want to assure parents that the test is quick, simple and painless and that they can remain with their baby whilst the screening takes place."

A very small number of babies will require further testing and any necessary follow up from the initial screens will be undertaken by the HSE Audiology (Hearing) Services. Family supports will be available, as appropriate, from the Department of Education and Skills Visiting Teacher Service and DeafHear a voluntary organisation that provides a range of services to deaf and hard of hearing people and their families.

The commencement of the programme in HSE West in 2013 will complete the national roll out with the service available to an additional 16,000 babies (approximately) born in the region. This is a welcome initiative which will further enhance the services available to women, babies and families throughout the HSE West region.