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August 26, 2004

Baby Hannah helps to pioneer hearing test

From: Glasgow Evening Times, UK - Aug 26, 2004

by Michelle Gallacher

TINY Hannah Reilly is one of the first babies in Glasgow to be given a hearing test that allows doctors to help deaf children from the day they are born.

The hi-tech equipment, bought by Yorkhill Hospital For Sick Children after a £9000 donation, is able to detect hearing problems in babies only a few hours old.

Early detection means doctors can give babies hearing aids as soon as possible and arrange vital support services for parents.

Hannah, who was born on Monday, was tested at Yorkhill and found to have no problems.

Her parents, Matt, 38, and Linda, 33, from Knightswood, have a history of hearing problems in their families, so doctors decided Hannah was a perfect candidate to test their new equipment.

Linda, a secretary in the hospital's ear, nose and throat department, said: "Working in the hospital meant I knew about the new test so I asked to have it done.

"I just wanted Hannah to have the best test available.

"There is a history of deafness in the family and I know if a baby is deaf it can cause problems with learning language."

Matt said: "I have a buzzing sound in my ears - although I can still hear - and my mum has had problems with her hearing.

"Linda's dad is also hard of hearing. We did not expect any problems with Hannah, but it is good to know early on so your mind can be put at rest, or, if there is a problem, you can do something about it."

Using old-style tests, doctors normally have to wait until a child is more than a year old before they can find out if the child has hearing difficulties.

By that time the youngster is likely to have problems with language and social skills.

But, thanks to a donation from the charity Children's Aid, the hospital was able to buy sophisticated Automated Auditory Brainstream Responses equipment.

It works by attaching three electrodes to a baby's head and playing them sounds through cup-shaped ear phones.

The baby's brain patterns tell doctors if it heard the sounds.

For the moment the tests are only being carried out on new-borns classified as at risk. These include children with a history of hearing problems in the family, premature babies, and babies with an abnormality in their head or neck.

Jim Harrigan, head of the auditory department at Yorkhill, said: "When I came here four years ago the average age when children were diagnosed with hearing problems was 17 months.

"That can result in their language being delayed and problems with social skills.

"Now we can do the test right away and get the baby a hearing aid as soon as possible."

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