Canda's new born should be screened for hearing problems before they leave the hospital, declares a position statement released by the Canadian Paediatric Society.
Three children in 1,000 in Canada are born deaf, and almost the same numbers are born with serious hearing loss. This does not seem to be a heredity problem as most children born with hearing issues are born to parents with good hearing.
The position statement has urged a mandatory newborn hearing screening in all provinces and territories, for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not have a screening program in place, as Dr. Hema Patel who prepared the statement, reports. Only Ontario and British Columbia have a well-integrated screening process in place.
"This is critical and we're sadly behind the times," said Dr. Hema Patel. "There's no excuse for Canada's dismal record in this area." Patel calls it a crime that Canada has not addressed this problem and she speaks from her own experience of having a son who had gone through two cochlear implants.
In comparison to even underdeveloped countries like Nigeria which has had a screening program since 2005, Canada has very little in place for a uniform program of early diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems through all its provinces.
In newborn hearing screenings, tiny electrodes or probes are placed on the head to record the brain's reaction to sound. In a simpler test, sound is put down the ear canal to check for an "echo" or response in the form of physical vibrations in the baby's ear.
Although babies born in provinces that have an early diagnosis and intervention program have the opportunity to achieve their potential with language and communication, those born in provinces would have a late diagnosis and consequently, a developmental delay. This issue is termed as "a moving target."
Five-year old Liam Love had his hearing problem diagnosed only last January, although doctors feel that it could have existed from birth. Only after he started daycare, did a speech problem surface. Then when an ear infection brought him to a doctor, visits to a speech therapist were recommended. This led to more hearing tests and finally, severe high-frequency hearing loss was diagnosed. His mother regrets, "He's now got permanent hearing loss, but having the hearing aids from birth would have changed his speech and we would have worked with him from Day 1 to get his speech to the right level."
Natalya Wallace was more fortunate. When she was born five years ago, her pediatrician recommended screening for hearing problems just as a precaution. It was discovered she had mild to moderate hearing loss and since her problem was identified and addressed early, her development has not faced any major issues.
Nevertheless, both the children, and countless others would have benefited from an in-hospital screening program soon after birth.