Following a major review of audiology services in Ireland that revealed a history of neglect towards essential pediatric hearing services, a national newborn hearing testing programme (UNHS) began in Cork in April 2011.
The test, to screen for deafness in newborn babies, enables earlier intervention for family-centered child-language development and a national roll-out of the UNHS service was completed by end-2012.
Infant Verbal Education Is Still Lacking In Ireland
While this leap forward in audiology services benefits the two deaf babies born every week in Ireland, infant verbal education for deaf children and their families is still lacking.
In the UK, the Sensory Inclusion Service (SIS) is jointly delivered by Telford and Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council to “provide a wide range of support to ensure children and young people have a good quality of life and are included in their local community.”
The SIS initiative is notably successful due to:
- commencing support for families of deaf infants from a very early age
- links to local organisations such as Shropshire Deaf Children’s Society
- meeting children and teens before planning and developing new services
Formal Pathways To Early Intervention
Deaf infants and their families benefit from a coordinated approach to inclusion, timely provision of information, support and networking for parents and families.
The outcome is a better awareness of local services and resources; which maximises development and inclusion opportunities for deaf children.
SIS flags that Ireland needs a model to prioritise child social inclusion (beyond education), critical family and social supports and infant verbal intervention.
What Ireland Needs
A similar system in Ireland, would give parents and families a direct pathway to services. In this way, parents and their families access vital information at a much earlier stage.
Ireland has many NGOs providing information on hearing, but no national coordination of these services. A lead entity needs to flag national and local services to show availability and facilitate social progress in this digital, technology-driven age.
Tackling state audiology services in Ireland is one step but without interoperability, their potential is stunted and families in Ireland will have difficulty accessing timely information.
(compiled by Nicola Fox)
- Newborn Hearing Tests Support Early Intervention
- Newborn Hearing Tests Start In Cork (April 2011)
- National Audiology Review To Tackle Waiting Lists
- Hearing-Aids + Learning = Education