Germany has no national newborn hearing screening programme. The German Health Ministry is launching test programmes in a number of German provinces.
According to the Health Ministry, the pilot programmes are in response to the large economic costs to society from untreated hearing loss. The ministry estimates that one to two children in 1,000 are born with severe hearing loss.
Between 80.000 and 150.000 children suffer from moderate hearing loss. Between three and four percent of all children suffer from mild hearing loss. This translates into currently more than 500,000 German children with hearing loss.
According to the German central data center for children with hearing loss, approximately 80,000 German children suffer from hearing loss so severe that they must attend special schools.
Untreated hearing loss may severely affect a child's speech, intellectual, social and emotional development, and for years hearing health care professionals have demanded the implementation of general hearing screening in Germany. Such programmes exist in a number of other countries, including the United States, Austria, Holland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Israel.
Worldwide, numerous studies have indicated the need for and efficacy of hearing screening. The efficacy and health economic benefits will be evaluated in the German newborn hearing screening pilot project.
Eventually, hearing screening is expected to be added to the German regulations regarding preventive check-ups for children under the German Health Care System and the Federal Joint Committee.
Today, the average age for the detection of congenital hearing loss in Germany is 2.5 years.
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