IM this article to a friend!

July 3, 2003

Lots of love – and a hearing test for all the babies

From: Advertiser, Australia - Jul 3, 2003


FLINDERS Medical Centre is giving all newborn babies a hearing test – the first hospital in South Australia, and one of the first in Australia, to adopt the screening as a routine matter.

Each year about 25 SA children are born profoundly deaf and need a hearing aid or a cochlear implant, says FMC's director of women's and children's health, Peter Marshall.

"Most remain undiagnosed until about aged two, risking normal development of speech and learning skills," he said.

Introduction of the screening follows a nine-month pilot study at five metropolitan and country hospitals by Child and Youth Health.

Professor Marshall said there was growing concern in Australia among child specialists that not all infants were screened.

Hearing impairments should be diagnosed and treated by six months of age if the child was to develop normal speech.

He said 2500 babies born at FMC each year would be tested, with the hospital linking into statewide and national screening programs when established.

He hoped the Commonwealth and state governments would act soon to have screening extended to all children.

The Variety Club of SA children's charity had funded the $80,000 screening program from money raised by some of SA's best chefs who were members of the international chefs' club, Les Toques Blanches.

The club's executive director, Sue Fraser, says Variety has now provided more than $19 million to support children's needs in SA.

The SA branch of the Australian Hotels Association had also donated $10,000.

Professor Marshall said the screening test was usually done while the infant was asleep using a hand-held sound-emitting painless probe which detected problems with the inner ear.

Toby Brito, who was born four weeks premature on June 20, was among the first children born at FMC to undergo the test.

His mother, Tracey Brito, 37, of Rosewater, said it was reassuring for parents to know their child was not at risk of hearing defects – particularly for the parents of premature infants.

Toby, who is her first child, will be discharged on Saturday.

© Advertiser Newspapers Ltd