From Thursday last, parents of all babies born at the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar are being offered a hearing screening test prior to being discharged from hospital. The test is available free-of-charge for all babies.
In Ireland, one to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears. Most of the babies are born into families with no history of hearing loss. The programme is aiming to identify hearing impairment as soon as possible after birth, to give babies a better chance of developing speech and language skills and to make the most of social and emotional interaction from an early age. Babies who do not have clear response in one or both ears from the initial screening will be referred to the Audiology Service for further hearing tests.
Marking the extension of the programme to the Midlands Dr Farhana Sharif Consultant Paediatrician said: "We are delighted that the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme has commenced in the Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar. The earlier a hearing loss can be picked up in a baby, the better the outcome they will have. It is therefore very important to screen all babies at an early stage."
The hearing test will be carried out by a trained hearing screener, while the baby is settled or sleeping - usually at the mother's bedside. The screener uses two non-invasive tests to screen hearing, with neither test causing any discomfort to the baby. The rates of babies needing further referral to the Audiology Services is estimated at about 2-4% of all babies tested although it is important to note that referral for further tests will not necessarily mean that a baby will have a hearing loss.
Dr. Shu Hoashi, Clinical Director, Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar also welcomed the extension of the programme to the Midlands, he said: "The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme is a welcome new initiative for the Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar. It benefits newborn babies and their families. Over 3,000 babies are born at the hospital each year and they will now be receiving this service."
Anne Kelly, Director of Nursing at the Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar welcomed the introduction of the programme to the hospital. "We have welcomed the screening staff, as they take up their new positions. I'd like to thank the midwives and other hospital staff for assisting them as they commence duty."
The programme is already in place in HSE South where up to 19,000 babies per year are screened at the six maternity hospitals.
Further information at: www.NewbornScreening.ie