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Quebec to roll out newborn hearing test to all babies by end of year

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The Quebec Health Ministry says it plans to make sure every newborn has access to the Programme québécois de dépistage de la surdité chez les nouveau-nés (PQDSN) by the end of the year.

"To date, it has been deployed in 28 facilities across Quebec," the ministry tells CTV News. "Birthing centres in certain regions are included in the deployment plan."

Currently, more than 70 per cent of babies born in the province have access to the test, according to government officials, with the goal of bumping that number up to 100 per cent.

"All newborns with risk factors, regardless of the presence of the PQDSN in their birthplaces, are referred to an audiology service for hearing screening tests," said Marie-Pierre Blier, a media relations officer with the ministry.

For its part, St. Mary's Hospital (SMHC) confirms it will be equipped to provide newborn hearing screenings by the end of the month.

"Nurses and nursing assistants recruited for this program successfully completed their theoretical training at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) on Oct. 25 and 26," said Maxime Rolin, a public relations officer with the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.

It follows in the steps of other locations, like the Royal Victoria Hospital, which has been offering the test for years.

"On the technical front, the necessary equipment has been ordered, and we expect to launch the program at the SMHC by the end of the month," Rolin stated. "In the coming days, they will be accompanied by MUHC experts in the field to complete their training."

Nurses and nursing assistants must participate in both the theoretical and practical training portions of the program with the MUHC before they can perform the screenings.

"The Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) has been doing the screening for all newborns at the MUHC since 2009 and is actively contributing to the deployment of the PQDSN by training the newborn nurseries within the RUISSS McGill," said Evelyne Dufresne, a communications officer with the MUHC.

The newborn hearing screening is a test offered to parents once a baby is born, usually in the hospital before mum and babe are discharged.

"Approximately one in every 1,000 babies is born with hearing loss severe enough to have negative consequences on the child's development," the government explains. "Hearing loss is often undetected by parents and other people in contact with the child."

The newborn hearing screening is optional, and parents do have to sign a release before it can be performed.

"The screening test is quick, painless and safe for the child," the government reassures. "It detects hearing loss in the first few weeks after your child's birth."

Without screening, hearing loss is oftentimes only detected after the age of two.

"Thanks to the screening, interventions to help a hearing-impaired child can begin much earlier," the government states.

The test is already offered at several clinics, including the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Lakeshore General Hospital, LaSalle Hospital, the Jewish General Hospital and the Côte-des-Neiges Birthing Centre.

From 2022 to 2023, over 38,748 newborns in Quebec took part in the province's hearing screening program.

The test is covered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). 

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