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December 10, 2002

HRI baby hearing tests in success

From: Huddersfield Daily Examiner, UK - 10 Dec 2002

By Jane Yelland, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

A PILOT scheme at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary helping babies who are born deaf has been hailed a great success.

The Infirmary was one of 23 sites in England chosen to pilot the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme 12 months ago.

The programme allowed babies' hearing to be tested within days of birth, instead of six to eight months later.

The newborn hearing test is important because 90% of deaf babies are born into families with no history of deafness.

American research has shown that if deafness is identified by the age of six months, and the child receives early help and support, he or she can learn to speak at about the same rate as a hearing child.

The National Deaf Children's Society reports that the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme should be available to every parent in the UK by April, 2004.

Dr Charlotte Clogher, team leader for the programme at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, said: "It has been a great success, proving to be beneficial to the babies' development later on in life.

"The trust was delighted to be one of the pilot sites.

"We offer the service seven-days a week to all newborn babies in Huddersfield and Halifax in order to detect any hearing difficulties."

Traditionally, in the UK, very early identification deafness has been poor.

Up to 50% of the 840 children born deaf every year are still not identified as deaf by 18-months and 25% are not identified by the age of three.

The old test carried out by health visitors could be "passed" by deaf babies who relied on other senses such as smell or sight.

The new hearing screen is carried out in hospital or in a clinic.

A soft ear-piece is put in the outer part of the baby's ear, which sends clicking sounds down into the inner ear. When an ear receives sound the inner part usually produces an echo.

If this does not happen, it will alert medical staff to the need for further investigations.

Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children's Society, said:

"It is important we seize this valuable opportunity by ensuring the test is available to all parents by April 2004 and that all the support services are in place."

© owned by or licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc 2002