Newborn screening for childhood hearing impairment leads to early detection

August 18, 2005

Screening newborn babies for permanent childhood hearing impairment (PCHI) can improve early detection of the condition by 43%, according to a research letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

PCHI is a congenital defect that affects 112 per 100,000 children worldwide. The benefit of newborn screening has been disputed for this condition but preliminary evidence suggests that enrolling children with PCHI in an intervention programme by the age of 9 months can reduce deficits in their development of language and speech.

Colin Kennedy (Southampton General Hospital, UK) and colleagues did an 8-year follow-up study of babies enrolled in the Wessex trial of universal newborn screening (UNS) for PCHI. In the latest study the researchers reviewed a group of 66 children aged between 7-9 years with bilateral PCHI that had undergone physiological screens of hearing soon after birth, and compared them with a group who only had distraction tests at age 7-8 months. The investigators found that the proportion of children with PCHI referred before 6 months of age increased from 11 of 35 (31%) without screening to 23 of 31(74%) during periods of screening.

Dr Kennedy concludes:"Our report...is the strongest available evidence of the added benefit of UNS in the early detection of PCHI. Assessment of the effect of early intervention on the speech and language of the children and the costs incurred by their families and by health providers is in progress and will be the subject of future reports."
-end-
See also accompanying comment.

Contact: Dr Colin R Kennedy, Department of Paediatric Neurology, Mailpoint 21, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK T) +44 ) 2380 796171 crk1@soton.ac.uk

Lancet

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