The national newborn hearing screening programme has been introduced at Mayo General Hospital. 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.
Dr Gabriel Fox, consultant paediatrician, explained: “We are delighted to have been able to provide a hearing screening service to over 20,000 babies born at the hospital during the past 10 years since we introduced routine hearing screening. We welcome the development of a national screening service which means that hearing screening will be provided to all babies born in Ireland.”
Ms Orla O’Hara, senior audiologist commented on the significance of early screening. She said: “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 some years ago.
“Now the national programme is being rolled out at the hospital with effect from 10 September 2013. 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 in Mayo Community Services.”
The screening test is usually done before the baby leaves the hospital. A trained hearing screener carries out the test. The screener 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 Ireland.