Early hearing loss detection is 'crucial'
Published: 29 Sep 2013 12:300 comments
Berkshire’s Newborn Hearing Programme is celebrating its 10th birthday and during that time has screened more than 115,000 babies, identifying 223 with permanent hearing loss.
Identifying hearing loss early is essential to a child’s development, as speech and communication skills will suffer if nothing is done in these critical early years.
Lisa Herbert, of Anneford Place, Bracknell, knows all too well the benefits of having your child screened. She gave birth to daughter Erin in June 2012, and was visited by a health visitor from the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
However, when Erin failed her first two home tests, she was sent to the King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, for more detailed tests.
At five-weeks-old, Mrs Herbert learned that her daughter had profound sensorineural hearing in her right ear and auditory neuropathy in her left ear.
Her hearing loss is classed as severe and she wears a hearing aid in each ear when she is awake. Mrs Herbert said: “She gets seen regularly, every two to three months. I’ve started doing sign language with her. She’s really vocal and has just started responding to the sign language so I’m looking for an introductory class.”
Erin is on her way to speaking, displaying the average range of sounds for a child her age, and her parents feel it has not had an impact on her development, thanks to her being diagnosed so early.
Mrs Herbert added: “She loves ‘Row Your Boat’, and we have a cat so she meows at it.”
Finding out Erin had hearing problems came as a shock, because there is no history of it in the family. However, when Erin was tested it was discovered her hearing loss was genetic.
Mrs Herbert explained: “My husband and I have a mutated gene, meaning our children have a one in four chance of developing hearing problems.”
Berkshire’s newborn hearing programme manager, Alison Hamilton-Stuart, stressed that early detection was crucial for a child’s development.
She added: “The programme has been a huge success. About 90% of babies diagnosed with permanent hearing loss do not have any family history and without this service their hearing impairment may not have been picked up until they were much older, which could have a significant impact on their development.
“Children start to talk at about eight-months-old but to learn language they need to hear. If they can’t and this goes undetected it can affect a child’s social and communication skills and their education.”
Every month 1,000 babies are screened two weeks after birth by a health visitor from Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. If necessary a more detailed screening is performed at five weeks and then the infant can be referred for further assessment.