Babies to get hearing test 2 days after birth

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

New-born babies are to have their hearing tested within 48 hours of birth under a new scheme unveiled by the government yesterday.

New-born babies are to have their hearing tested within 48 hours of birth under a new scheme unveiled by the government yesterday.

The new test uses a probe inserted into the baby's ear to identify those with hearing difficulties so that they can get hearing aids or other help at an early stage. The probe emits clicks and listens for tiny echoes that a healthy ear should send back.

The current screening method, introduced in the 1960s, is not applied until seven months and is unreliable, missing about half of babies with hearing problems. It involves a "distraction test" in which a health visitor watches to see if infants respond to a noise from an unseen source.

About 400 of the 840 children born deaf every year are still undiagnosed at 18 months, and 200 children aged three-and-a-half are still unrecognised as suffering from a serious hearing problem. The delay in diagnosis means children miss out on vital early teaching and support, and families have little time to consider the options for treating their child.

Yvette Cooper, the Public Health minister, announced a pilot programme to use the new tests at 20 sites across England, starting in September. It is hoped that, after a year's trial, the test will be introduced nationally. "We are very keen on the proposals for a universal neonatal screening programme for deafness in children," Ms Cooper said.

James Strachan, the chief executive of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, said: "One unidentified case of deafness in a baby is one too many and the universal introduction of this test will help prevent this.

"Early diagnosis will ensure that new technology, such as high powered digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, is harnessed to transform children's lives," he said.

"We eagerly anticipate the national roll-out of the scheme, when the test and follow up services is available to all parents of new-born babies.

Comments