On Your Side: Universal hearing tests for newborns slowly inching forward
MONTREAL- A government promise to test the hearing of all newborn children is finally inching forward after three years of planning.
The procedure, which is standard in many other provinces, would help medical authorities equip hearing-impaired newborns with hearing aids immediately upon detection of their condition.
Detection is considered urgent because every day that a young child suffers a lack of auditory stimulus puts a roadblock to that child's development.
Ste-Justine and two other hospitals on the South Shore have recently made the procedure mandatory and others are set to follow.
Anne-Marie Hurteau has been working on the government committee to choose equipment and establish protocols that will cover the entire province by the end of next year.
"We're hopeful that by the end of 2013 all our children, our babies that are born in Quebec will get the screening test," said Hurteau of the Montreal Children's Hospital.
For several years Dr. Hema Patel and a coalition of medical experts have lobbied for universal screening of all newborns for hearing impairment.
She says that each day that a child unnecessarily lives in total silence can result in permanent and possibly irreparable loss of development.
"Hearing is actually not about the ears," said Patel. "Hearing is about the brain and the longer that the child is deprived of that auditory input and the sound that is all around us, the more that it shuts down that development."
Siobhan Babkine's daughter Natalya was just two weeks old when her pediatrician recommended a hearing test.
"I went privately to get her hearing tested, I thought nothing of it," said Babkine.
Several follow-up tests confirmed that her child had a hearing impairment.
"She was about three months old when we had a confirmed diagnosis that she had a hearing impairment," said Babkine.
Babkine considers herself fortunate that tests detected the hearing issue relatively early.
"We would have gone so long without noticing it," she said "and it would have lead to so many other problems in her case."
And although more children are being tested for hearing issues, the quest to make the tests fully universal remains unfulfilled.
"The day that we can reliably know that every Quebec newborn has been screened for hearing will be the day for the celebration. That's the day for the champagne," said Hema Patel.