More than 370 babies' permanent hearing problems have been picked up through routine maternity hospital screening which has been in place since 2011, latest figures reveal.
Over the past four years some 200,000 newborn babies in Ireland have been screened for hearing impairments, under the HSE's universal newborn hearing screening programme.
It is now available in all maternity hospitals throughout Ireland with approximately 70,000 babies a year undergoing hearing screening. Picking up a hearing difficulty in infancy allows for treatment to be given as early as possible.
The test is provided free of charge usually before leaving the hospital when the baby is settled or asleep at the mother's bedside. It is carried out by a trained hearing screener and only takes a few minutes.
The screener places a small soft tipped earpiece in the outer part of the baby's ear which sends clicking sounds down the ear. When an ear receives sound, the inner part, known as the cochlea, usually produces an echo. The screening equipment can pick up this echo. Over 50pc of babies born with a hearing loss are to parents where there are no clear risks. A spokesman said that identifying it early means "making a life-changing difference to babies."
On average 6,000 babies are screened each month; of these 180 babies are referred to the HSE audiology service for more assessment.
Health & Living