May 7, 2012
Eulene Bertrand has the pleasure of meeting almost every baby born in London. In her role as Audiology Technician at London Health Sciences Centre, Bertrand provides hearing tests to infants born at the hospital, on average 15 – 18 babies each day.
"After 33 years working in audiology, the past nine with the Infant Hearing Program, I am now testing the babies of some of my earlier patients," says Bertrand.
At LHSC almost every infant is tested, including babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Paediatric Critical Care Unit (PCCU). We screen well over 400 babies each month, some months more than 500.
The Ontario Infant Hearing Program is funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The program’s goal is:
- to identify every infant with permanent hearing impairment,
- to provide family members with information to make timely, informed decisions, and
- to provide the services necessary to maximize their child’s communication and language development.
The benefits of early identification are significant. Every year in Ontario, approximately three in 1,000 babies are born deaf or hard of hearing. Through the Infant Hearing Program, these babies can be found early and given the help that they need to develop language. With early identification and supports these children have the same chance to develop language skills as hearing children.
The Infant Hearing Program in the southwest region is co-ordinated through the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU). As a result of a partnership with MLHU, LHSC has been screening the hearing of babies born at the hospital for the past nine years.
Bertrand provides two types of screening tests. The first is an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test. The test will not hurt the baby, many babies sleep through the whole experience. A small earphone is placed in the baby’s ear and soft sounds are played through it. The ear’s response to these sounds is measured and recorded. The entire procedure takes just a few minutes and will provide immediate results
Most babies will receive a pass result. Those which do not receive a pass result are not immediately assumed to have hearing loss. The reasons for the refer results can due to the baby fidgeting, mucus in the ears or even background noise in the room. A second test is used to further screen hearing
The second screening test is called an automated brainstem auditory evoked response test (A BAER). Again, a small earphone that produces soft sounds will be placed in the baby’s ear. Three small electrode pads will be placed on the baby’s forehead and behind the ears to measure the brain’s response to the soft sounds. A computer will analyze the response and display the result.
Babies who receive a refer result on the second screening test are sent on to a specially trained Infant Hearing Program audiologist in the community for a complete audiological assessment. If a permanent hearing loss is found, the Infant Hearing Program provides follow up support and services such as amplification and communication development.
While the hearing tests are not mandatory, we urge all parents to have their infant’s hearing tested. Unidentified hearing loss or partial loss can put babies at risk for developing the language skills important for academic success in school and in life.
May is Speech Language and Hearing Month.