Undetected hearing impairment can affect child’s growth

National 2 minutes, 28 seconds


BABIES with undetected permanent hearing impairment will experience a negative impact on their speech and language development, said an associate specialist from the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital.

At the launch of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) yesterday, Dr Pg Hjh Norsuhazenah Pg Suhaili stressed the importance of the screening programme for all infants.

“This issue (of undiagnosed impairment) will lead to a loss in terms of the potential development of these children as members of society and contributors to the national economy in the long run,” said the head of Otorhinolaryngology Department.

She added that undetected hearing loss in young children could also indirectly affect their academic achievement and social development.

Auditory senses, she explained, are one of the vital senses in the development of newborn babies. Through auditory sense, they will learn to identify and recognise surrounding sounds such as the voice of parents and family members as well as musical tones.

Having heard a variety of sounds, Dr Pg Hjh Norsuhazenah said babies will then begin to process words in their development of speech and language.

She said the UNHS aimed to detect permanent hearing impairment early in newborn babies in a bid to provide a better standard of appropriate care and treatment, noting that it would enhance the services for children who have hearing problems.

Under the programme, every newborn baby at RIPAS Hospital will be given a hearing test before they are discharged in line with World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations.

Infants who were born without factors related to hearing impairment such as premature births and its associated problems will be screened in two stages, while babies requiring treatment in the Intensive Care Unit will only undergo one stage of screening. The two-stage screening protocol involves firstly performing the screening on babies aged more than 24 hours before they are discharged.

A second screening will only be conducted on babies who do not pass the first screening. Each stage of screening will use different screening tools to ensure quality-assured detection. Babies who do not pass the second screening will be referred to the Audiology Unit for further diagnostic tests.

Meanwhile, infants who undergo the one stage of screening will be referred to Audiology Unit if they do not pass the test.

Babies who were unable to undergo screening due to an early discharge process, an appointment will be given for a clinical hearing test within the first month of birth. RIPAS Hospital will monitor to ensure all infants attend their appointments and undergo the screening tests.

Infants who are older than the screening age will be referred directly to the Audiology Unit for the screening tests.

Dr Pg Hjh Norsuhazenah Pg Suhaili, in her speech, also urged for support and cooperation from all parties as the implementation of the UNHS is “not an easy” task. She added that the programme is a commitment towards ensuring newborn babies are taken care of.

The Brunei Times