Hospital-based universal newborn hearing screening for early detection of permanent congenital hearing loss in Lagos, Nigeria

B O Olusanya, S L Wirz, L M Luxon
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2008, 72 (7): 991-1001

OBJECTIVE: To determine the feasibility and effectiveness of hospital-based universal newborn hearing screening programme for the early detection of permanent congenital or early-onset hearing loss (PCEHL) in Lagos, Nigeria.

METHODS: A cross-sectional pilot study based on a two-stage universal newborn hearing screening by non-specialist health workers using transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) and automated auditory brainstem-response (AABR) in an inner-city maternity hospital over a consecutive period of 40 weeks. The main outcome measures were the practicality of screening by non-specialist staff with minimal training, functionality of screening instruments in an inner-city environment, screening coverage, referral rate, return rate for diagnosis, yield of PCEHL and average age of PCEHL confirmation.

RESULTS: Universal hearing screening of newborns by non-specialist staff without prior audiological experience is feasible in an inner-city environment in Lagos after a training period of two-weeks. Notwithstanding excessive ambient noise within and outside the wards, it was possible to identify a test site for TEOAE screening within the hospital. The screening coverage was 98.7% (1330/1347) of all eligible newborns and the mean age of screening was 2.6 days. Forty-four babies out of the 1274 who completed the two-stage screening were referred yielding a referral rate of 3.5%. Only 16% (7/44) of babies scheduled for diagnostic evaluation returned and all were confirmed with hearing loss resulting in an incidence of 5.5 (7/1274) per 1000 live births or a programme yield of 5.3 (7/1330) per 1000. Six infants had bilateral hearing loss and the degree was severe (> or =70 dB nHL) in three infants, moderate (40 dB nHL) in one infant and mild (<40 dB nHL) in two infants. The age at diagnosis ranged from 46 days to 360 days and only two infants were diagnosed within 90 days.

CONCLUSIONS: Hospital-based universal hearing screening of newborns before discharge is feasible in Nigeria. Non-specialist staff are valuable in achieving a satisfactory referral rate with a two-stage screening protocol. However, a more efficient tracking and follow-up system is needed to improve the return rate for diagnosis and age of confirmation of hearing loss.

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