Programme to detect hearing problems ‘puts babies at risk’ – Ireland

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The screening programme rolled out four years ago which is aimed at detecting hearing problems in all newborns is “inadequate and puts our most vulnerable at risk”, according to a new study.

The earlier a child’s hearing difficulties are picked up the better and currently 5,000 babies a month are screened.

However, problems arise when they are referred on for further assessment. Waiting times can vary from two weeks to a year.

Ideally if problems are found the baby should have an audiology assessment by three months of age.

They need intervention and medical services by six months, according to the researchers in Tallaght Hospital, Cavan Hospital, St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny, Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons.

There are 33 paediatricians doing assessments but only 18pc had training, and only one in five felt they saw enough children to maintain clinical expertise.

They are hampered in having little access to more experienced specialists in cases which were complex.

“Identified gaps include inadequate training, deficiencies in infrastructural local support and limited access to tertiary support, ie genetics, ear, nose and throat and infectious diseases services,” the ‘Irish Medical Journal’ reported.

The researchers said the development of a more effective regional approach is proposed.

This would be provided by adequately trained, resourced and locally and regionally supported paediatricians.

They would have expertise in child development, knowledge of disability service structures and all relevant aspects of the assessment of children with permanent hearing loss.

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