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January 5, 2004

Screening hearing of newborn babies

From: Redbridge Guardian, UK - Jan 5, 2004

THE Redbridge Primary Care Trust (PCT) has been congratulated for taking part in the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening programme, which screens all newborn babies for hearing defects.

As from December 2003, 54 sites in England since 2001, including the Redbridge PCT, have been trained and are screening babies. Already, 250,000 newborn babies have been screened and nearly 250 identified as having a hearing problem before six months of age. Babies can benefit greatly if hearing loss is detected early enough.

Health Minister Stephen Ladyman said: "This Government wants to make sure that every child gets the best start in life. We know that early detection of deafness and hearing impairment improves language and communication skills leading to better educational achievement and quality of life.

"If babies are identified with a hearing loss very early in their life, precious time is gained to help them and their family develop vital communication skills.

"Hearing screening in newborn babies started in 2001 with 20 pilot sites. We are now encouraged to see that this has more than doubled to 54 sites in the last couple of years and by 2005 we hope that all sites in England will be participating in this vital service."

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children's Society, said that if hearing impairment was detected early enough, a deaf child could learn a language at the same rate as a child with perfectly good hearing. She said: "We are delighted that the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening programme is being implemented in so many sites all around the UK and we look forward to seeing a complete nationwide roll-out.

"Early diagnosis of a hearing loss is extremely important for a child's language and social development. If a baby is identified by the age of six months, and a good early intervention and support programme is developed, a deaf child can develop language at the same rate as a hearing child."

The UK is ahead of most of Europe in carrying out this programme. Supported by the National Deaf Children's Society and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, this is a good example of joint working between the NHS, education services, social services and the voluntary sector, in the care and follow-up of children with hearing difficulties.

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