Two-day-old babies screened for deafness

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Indy Lifestyle Online

New-born babies are to be screened for deafness under a pioneering programme designed to catch signs of the condition early.

New-born babies are to be screened for deafness under a pioneering programme designed to catch signs of the condition early.

New technology, which allows children to be screened 48 hours after they are born, will be installed in neonatal units in NHS hospitals around the country. A pilot scheme is to begin in 20 areas later this year and will then be introduced nationally as the country's first ever universal screening programme.

Babies are at present screened at seven to eight months using health visitor distraction tests. But of 840 children born deaf each year, the tests miss hundreds who are diagnosed as deaf later in life.

Campaigners, who have welcomed the introduction of the national screening programme, said this had serious implications for children's language and educational development.

The new test involves a tiny instrument which sends a sound into the baby's ear and measures the levels of returned sound to work out whether the baby is hearing.

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

"More than that, early diagnosis will ensure that new technology, such as high powered digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, is harnessed to transform children's lives. This is an excellent step forward by the Government.

"We eagerly anticipate the national rollout of the scheme, when the test and follow-up services are available to parents of all new-born babies. We will work with the Government to ensure these essential services are in place for deaf children under five and their parents."

Early detection of deafness enables families to get professional help before their child starts having difficulties. Other family members can begin to learn sign language and choices can be made more quickly about whether to use hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Yvette Cooper, the Public Health Minister, said the Government was "very keen" on proposals for the universal neonatal screening programme for deafness in children.

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