All babies will have hearing screening

The introduction of the national newborn hearing screening programme at Galway University Hospitals means that hearing screening will be provided to all babies born in Ireland.

Newborn hearing screening has been part of the service at the hospital for a number of years and in 2011 the HSE contracted Northgate Information Solutions to roll out a national screening programme at all maternity hospitals in the country.

Mr John Lang, an ear, nose and throat consultant at GUH, says it is delighted to have been able to provide a hearing screening service to more than 35,000 babies born at the hospital during the past 10 years - since routine hearing screening was introduced.

“We welcome the development of a national screening service which means that hearing screening will be provided to all babies born in Ireland.”

Orla O’Hara, senior audiologist at the hospital, commented on the significance of early screening.

“One to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss; most of these babies are born to families with no history of such loss. Early diagnosis, treatment and support have a significant impact on the baby’s development, speech and language, education and help him or her to achieve his or her full potential in life. For this reason we introduced newborn hearing screening at the hospital in 2003.

“Now the national programme is being rolled out at the hospital with effect from 23 July. A very small number of babies will require further testing and any necessary follow up from the initial screens will be undertaken by the audiology services here in UHG and Galway Community Services.”

Newborn hearing screening tests are usually done before the baby leaves the hospital. A trained hearing screener carries out the test. S/he places a small soft tipped earpiece in the outer part of the baby’s ear which sends clicking sounds down the ear. When an ear receives sound, the inner part, known as the cochlea, usually produces an echo. The screening equipment can pick up this echo. The screening test only takes a few minutes and does not hurt the baby.

The rollout of the national newborn hearing screening programme will continue in late summer with the introduction of the initiative at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, and Mayo General Hospital.

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