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September 01, 2003

Early Detection of Infants' Hearing Loss

The Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumption, in cooperation with the Autonomous Regions, has set up the basis for an Early Detection of Hearing Loss in Infants programme.

The aim is to prevent and identify hearing loss in children as early as possible and to provide appropriate treatment during the first months of life. The plan was submitted to the Comisión de Salud Pública del Consejo Interterritorial del Sistema Nacional de Salud, (Public Health Commission of the National Health System Interregional Board) on the 11th of April, 2003.

In Spain hearing loss in children is usually diagnosed between the age of 6 months and two years. For the individual child, the difference of 18 months is crucial. The later hearing loss is discovered, the bigger the adverse impact on language acquisition, memory, thought, learning ability and personality.

It is estimated that five in every 1.000 Spanish infants suffer from some level of hearing loss, meaning a rate of newborns with hearing impairment of 0.5%. This figure is high when compared with the incidence of hearing impaired newborns in most parts of the world ranging from 0.1-0.3%. In Spain, there are two main causes for hearing loss in children. In one half of the cases it is hereditary. The other half is caused by risk factors during pregnancy, like ototoxic drugs, antibiotics, noise and alcohol.

Sources: Salud y Discapacidad salud.discapnet.es/) and Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo (www.msc.es)

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