A universal newborn hearing screening program in Taiwan

Hung-Ching Lin, Min-Tsan Shu, Ke-Chang Chang, Sharon M Bruna
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2002 May 15, 63 (3): 209-18

OBJECTIVE: Mackay Memorial Hospital and the Children's Hearing Foundation established a pilot universal newborn hearing screening program in November 1998. Our objective was to assess the feasibility, accuracy and cost effectiveness of implementing universal newborn hearing screening in Taiwan.

METHOD: Between November 1998 and October 2000 a total of 6765 newborns were screened for hearing loss prior to discharge from the wellborn nursery at Mackay Memorial Hospital. The average age of the subjects at the initial screening test was 52 h. The program employed a three stage hearing screening protocol using transient evoked otoacoustic emmisions (TEOAE) screening with referral for diagnostic auditory brainstem response assessment.

RESULTS: The mean TEOAE screening time per ear was 41.43 s. The overall pass rate at the time of hospital discharge was 93.6%. Thus achieving an acceptable referral rate of 6.4% for diagnostic audiological assessments. Nine newborns were identified with permanent bilateral hearing impairment. 26 newborns were identified with permanent unilateral hearing impairment. Infants identified with bilateral hearing loss were immediately referred to the Children's Hearing Foundation for hearing aid assessment and fitting. Infants as young as 5 weeks of age were successfully fitted with hearing instruments and enrolled in the family centered early intervention program at the Children's Hearing Foundation.

CONCLUSION: The frequency of bilateral congenital hearing loss requiring amplification in this population is shown to be approximately 1 in 752 newborns. This finding is consistent with previous research, which has indicated hearing loss to be the most frequently occurring birth defect. Universal newborn hearing screening using TEOAEs proved to be a cost effective and feasible method of identifying congenital hearing loss in Taiwan. The existence of many successful screening programs worldwide and the availability of fast, objective, reliable and inexpensive hearing screening procedures means that universal newborn hearing screening is becoming the standard of care.

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