Provinces and territories urged to screen all newborns for hearing loss

OTTAWA—All provinces and territories should provide universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS), says the Canadian Paediatric Society in a position statement published today in Paediatrics & Child Health.
“Neonatal hearing loss is one of the most common congenital conditions,” said Dr. Hema Patel, author of the CPS position statement. ”When we diagnosis a hearing impairment early, it has a significant lifelong effect on the neurological development and learning potential of the child.”
Up to 3 in 1000 babies are born profoundly deaf. Another 3 in 1000 have serious hearing loss. Most hearing-impaired children are healthy and born to hearing parents.  
“The ability to accurately detect hearing loss in newborns and to re-establish hearing is one of the major advances in paediatrics in the last 20 years,” said Dr. Patel. “It’s not surprising that most developed nations have well established infant hearing screening programs.”
While several jurisdictions have universal newborn hearing screening, many parts of Canada do not.
When newborns are tested, a diagnosis is usually at 3 months or earlier, with intervention by 6 months. Children with hearing impairment who have early intervention can be expected to develop to their full potential. In unscreened children the average age at diagnosis is 24 months old.
Diagnosing hearing loss as early as possible also appears to be cost-effective. A recent Quebec report suggested that a province-wide screening program would result in a net savings of $1.7 million, largely through savings in education and training.
The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents nearly 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.