NEWS

Newborn hearing screening to expand

More testing sites added in Winnipeg, province

newborn hearing screening 1
Health Minister Sharon Blady watches as pediatric audiologist Diana Dinon (right) screens baby Olivier's hearing at the launch of the province's universal newborn hearing screening program.
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New screening sites

How the testing works

BY SUSIE STRACHAN
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Friday, October 9, 2015

Newborn hearing screening has been expanded to more infants in Winnipeg and around the province, in order to catch children at a critical stage in their auditory development.

The province is investing more than $3 million to develop and implement the program including funds for capital equipment, staff training and ongoing operating costs.

newborn screening 2

A closer look at the small device placed into baby Olivier's ear to test his hearing.

The program expansion -announced at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg on Oct. 8 - will see hearing screening of all newborns born at at HSC, St. Boniface Hospital and the Birth Centre in Winnipeg.

Each year, a small number of the 16,000 to 17,000 babies delivered in Manitoba are born with some hearing loss. Early childhood hearing loss has an impact on social, emotional, educational and linguistic outcomes, if not detected, according to Diana Dinon, pediatric audiologist at HSC.

"The first two years of a child's life are critical for the development of speech and language, which relies on optimal auditory input. If left untreated during the early part of this critical period, permanent childhood hearing loss will have a negative effect on a child's speech and language skills," says Dinon.

The screening itself is quick, reliable and non-invasive, and, in the majority of births, occur in hospital prior to discharge.

Currently, hearing screening is done in Winnipeg neonatal intensive care units for infants at high risk of hearing loss, the Brandon Regional Health Centre and the Thompson General Hospital, which screens most babies born there.

Winnipeg has been screening newborns at risk for hearing loss for the past 35 years, says Dinon, adding the launch of the province-wide screening means every newborn will receive the testing, whether they're born in hospital or at home.

"Every family deserves access to the screening and supports they need to give their baby the best chance for a healthy start," says Sharon Blady, provincial Minister of Health. "This expanded program will help ensure no child with congenital hearing loss falls through the cracks."

Blady noted the quick diagnosis and treatment of children with hearing loss can be key in helping them develop cognitive, speech-processing and learning skills, adding the biggest gains are made if hearing loss is detected and diagnosed before a baby is three months old.

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