Effectiveness of population-based newborn hearing screening in England: ages of interventions and profile of cases

Kai Uus, John Bamford
Pediatrics 2006, 117 (5): e887-93

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness in routine practice of the first phase of a national population-based newborn hearing screening and follow-up program that seeks to identify infants with bilateral permanent hearing loss of > or =40-dB hearing loss.

METHODS: The study was a part of the independent evaluation of the 23 first phase sites (annual birth population approximately 120,000) of the national newborn hearing screening program in England. For each infant identified with the defined hearing loss, the measures of interest were degree and type of hearing loss, presence of risk factors, age of first audiologic assessment, age of identification of hearing loss, age of enrollment in an early support program, and age of hearing aid fitting. Data collection took place over the first 2 years of the program.

RESULTS: Data were provided on 169 infants with permanent bilateral moderate or greater hearing loss identified through screening 169487 infants. Fifty-four percent of all cases were from an "at-risk" population. Three fourths of these "at-risk" infants spent > or =48 hours in the NICU. For the whole sample, the median age at first audiologic assessment was 5 weeks; the median age of identification of the hearing loss and of enrollment in early support program was 10 weeks irrespective of the degree of hearing loss; and the median age at hearing aid fitting was 16 weeks. Infants with moderate hearing loss were fitted with hearing aids significantly later than those with severe and profound hearing loss.

CONCLUSIONS: Properly implemented, a newborn hearing screening program based on whole populations and routine service provision can deliver satisfactory outcomes in terms of age of referral, identification, and intervention. The distribution of degree and type of hearing loss and proportion with risk factors was similar to that expected. The numbers identified were such as to suggest that very few cases were missed by the screening program.

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