James Michael Murphy from Westport was the 100,000th baby in Ireland to be screened for hearing impairments, under the HSE’s universal new-born hearing screening programme, provided by Northgate Public Services, which is available at hospitals throughout Ireland. James, who was born at Mayo General Hospital in February, and mum Elizabeth were delighted to have clear responses from the hearing screen delivered by screener, Sinead Courtney.
Approximately 75,000 babies a year in Ireland are now undergoing hearing screening at all maternity units. In Ireland, one to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears. On average 6,000 babies are screened each month; of these 180 babies (three per cent ) are referred to the HSE Audiology Service for further hearing diagnostic assessments; and approximately nine babies are identified with a permanent childhood hearing loss. Some 90 per cent of these babies are born into families with no experience, or history, of childhood deafness.
The HSE contracted the services of Northgate Public Services to provide universal new-born hearing screening in all maternity hospitals in Ireland. Universal new-born hearing screening identifies hearing impairment much earlier and, coupled with timely audiology services, improves the life experience of identified children.
Dr Gary Norman, national clinical lead for audiology, explained: “The screening programme aims to identify hearing impairments as soon as possible after birth. The earlier a hearing loss can be picked up in a baby, the better outcome that baby will have in terms of developing speech and language skills, as well as developing social and emotional interactions from an early age.” Resources such as an information guide, frequently asked questions and answers, and booklets in English and Irish are available on www.newbornscreening.ie