A strong case for newborn hearing tests is made with a recent study in the Netherlands, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Detection At Birth Gave Better Quality Of Life
Children whose hearing issues were found at birth, had a better quality of life aged 3 and 5, than babies tested at 9 months, according to the study.
Newborn hearing screening is the exception in Ireland despite campaigns and multiple studies that show its benefits. Conversely, the UK has moved from using the infant distraction test (IDT) conducted by health visitors, to introducing newborn hearing screening programmes nationwide.
Newborn Tests Replaced Distraction-Based Tests
Distraction-based testing – as done in Ireland – is inaccurate if a seven to nine-month-old child is sleepy, has a cold or fluid in the ears. Statistics from Deafness Research UK show the IDT “missed” fifty per cent of babies with hearing issues, so they went undetected until 18 months old, on average.
In fact, a number of children tested with IDT in the UK, were unconfirmed as being deaf until after their third birthday (this is still the case in Ireland).
Unconfirmed Deafness Stunts Word Learning
By three years old, a child with unconfirmed deafness may know 25 words, versus 700 words for a child with typical hearing. Testing babies’ hearing at birth allows the children to learn language earlier, and to build vocabulary.
The sooner newborn hearing screening is rolled out in Ireland, the better children will be able to learn in their formative preschool and school years.