Up to 60 percent of newborns still do not undergo hearing screening in Argentina in spite of a law, enacted six years ago, mandating newborn hearing screenings. The law calls for all newborns to be screened for hearing loss before the age of three months in private or public health care centers.
The failure in carrying out the national screening programme was reported by Argentina's Federation of Othorhinolaryngology Societies and the Society of Othorhinolaryngology.
Hearing screening is prescribed individually by pediatrics. However, only 40 percent of newborns are screened for hearing loss, and the screenings mostly occur in private health care centers. Between 2,000 and 3,500 children are born with hearing impairment. One child in 1,000 suffers from profound hearing loss while another one in 1,000 develops this impairment in his or her lifetime.
Economic burden for specialists
The economic burden for hearing specialists associated with the screening is one of the main reasons for the programme's failure.
According to the Argentinean associations, the equipment to conduct an otoacoustic emission test (OAE) in newborns is not available in public hospitals. The OAE records in a non-invasive way the faint vibrations that come from a baby's ear in response to sounds. The USD3,000-6,000 cost of the equipment is not considered to be a problem, but the economic burden stems from hiring trained professionals for proper operation of the equipment and from the further monitoring of a diagnosed hearing impaired child.
In these circumstances, most of the performed hearing screenings involve newborns at high risk, such as premature babies, under-weight newborns, or those with hearing impaired parents.
Undiagnosed hearing loss in children generally slows the development of speech, language and cognitive abilities. Early diagnosis and treatment with hearing aids, therapy or cochlear implants is essential for developing language, speech and cognitive and social abilities at the same rate as children with normal hearing.
Published on hear-it on October 2, 2008.
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