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September 15, 2014

Insufficient newborn hearing screening in Canadian provinces

The majority of provinces and territories in Canada lack adequate programs to screen newborn babies for hearing loss and monitor children for potential hearing issues, a study shows.

Insufficient newborn hearing screening in Canadian provinces

Hearing screening and timely intervention are fundamental elements, if children are to have the chance of reaching their full potential. However, a study of newborn hearing screening programs in the provinces and territories in Canada reveals how the majority fail to provide the necessary diagnosis and intervention. This can have a significant impact on children’s lives.

Insufficient detection programs

A study from Speech-Language and Audiology Canada provides a cross-country snapshot of the Canadian screening programs of newborn babies. Eight out of the total 13 provinces and territories were considered to have an ‘insufficient’ detection program, while four were graded ‘good’.

Only British Columbia managed to earn a grade of ‘excellent’ for screening 97% or more of the babies across the province. This was achieved by using a carefully designed program with clear standards, follow-ups and tracking of births and outcomes.

Early detection matters

Discovering hearing problems early in life is crucial for the development of a child. Previous studies suggest that an extended period of untreated hearing loss can have a great impact on a child’s brain. Furthermore, the ability to communicate is the foundation of a child’s social, emotional and educational development.

Screening newborns for hearing loss isn’t costly. By using a quick and non-invasive test, a trained technician can detect hearing loss in infants, ideally before the baby is discharged from the hospital. 

Internationally, most newborn hearing screening programs recommend screening by one month of age, confirmation of the diagnosis by three months and intervention by six months.

About the study

The study was conducted and published by Speech-Language and Audiology Canada in collaboration with the Canadian Academy of Audiologists.

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