The majority of parents concerned about their baby's hearing will have to go on a public waiting list or else pay €100 for a private test, as a national rollout will take two years.
Babies in Cork University Hospital became the first in the country to be offered free hearing screening, under a programme launched yesterday. But it will take time to roll out the scheme nationally, sparking concern from organisations representing the deaf and hard of hearing.
A recently published expert group review report warned that children with hearing difficulties were being diagnosed too late, leaving them with lifelong difficulties which can affect their education and social development.
The report revealed that children here who are profoundly deaf are not being diagnosed until they are two years old. Those with moderate hearing loss can wait up to 60 months before they are assessed. They can also wait years to get a hearing aid.
Now the 8,000 babies born in the Cork hospital over the course of a year will be screened by a trained hearing screener while they are settled or sleeping, usually at the mother's bedside.