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June 06, 2006

Newborn hearing screening in India

Childhood development of speech and language may be slowed in cases of late detection of hearing loss. In the Southern Indian city of Kochi a remedy has arrived in the form of hearing screening of newborns.

Kochi is the first city in India where infants may receive routine screenings for hearing impairment. The screenings are performed at the Kochi Child Care Centre of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. In the 400 newborns screened in the new programme, 25 babies were found to suffer from hearing problems. Seven of these have since been fitted with hearing aids.

Importance of testing

It is essential that hearing loss be detected early on, in order to prevent damage to the child’s speech and language development. Ideally, a hearing impaired newborn should be fitted with hearing aids before the age of six months to insure normal speech and language development.

”If the impairment is detected after age one, the remedy will not be fully effective as the impairment must have already affected language and speech skill,” said Abraham Paul, a pediatrician and coordinator of the newborn hearing screening programme at the Kochi Child Care Centre.

The plan is for the newborn screening programme to be adopted in all districts in this region of India.

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