News Health

Monday 15 September 2014

Early test saves more babies from world of silence

Claire McCormack

Published 02/08/2014 | 02:30

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Lorraine Murphy from Westmeath, with Anna, 5
Lorraine Murphy from Westmeath, with Anna, 5

MORE THAN 160 babies have been diagnosed with permanent deafness since the introduction of a screening programme for newborns.

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Around 6,000 routine screening tests are carried out at 19 maternity hospitals across the country every month. From this, almost two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears.

The figures were published at an event, hosted by Northgate Public Services, which has provided the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) service across the country since last November.

Speaking at the event, parents said their children had benefited from early detection.

Rachel Fellowes, a mother from Cork, said her two-year-old son Ben could now say 80 words despite his deafness. She said she was thankful that his rate of progress was similar to his brother Joel (3) at that age.

"I am so grateful to have had the chance to have him diagnosed early, so that he has not lost out on his learning and development," she said.

Delighted

Mother-of-three Lorraine Murphy (41), from Westmeath, told of her daughter Anna (5), who was not diagnosed with deafness in both ears for over a year, as the UNHS was not set up when she born.

Although this led to a delay in her daughter receiving a hearing implant, she is glad no more cases will go unnoticed.

"Anna lived in a different world for the first 17 months until we discovered what was wrong," said Ms Murphy. "Now other parents need not go through all that – they have the newborn screening service."

Joe Bradley, Northgate's Executive Director, said he was delighted the service had proven so invaluable to parents.

"On average, we are identifying 180 babies every month who need referral to the HSE Audiology Service," he said.

Dr Gary Norman, National Clinical Lead for Audiology, said early intervention and timely access to services was vital.

"The earlier a hearing loss can be picked up, the better outcome that baby will have in terms of developing speech and language skills, as well as developing social and emotional interactions from an early age," he said.

Irish Independent

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