Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Pilot implementation of newborn hearing screening programme at four hospitals in southern Thailand

Pittayapon Pitathawatchai, Wandee Khaimook & Virat Kirtsreesakul

Objective

To determine the effectiveness and benefit of a universal newborn hearing screening programme at four different hospitals in southern Thailand, between January and July 2017.

Methods

One screener per hospital recorded demographic data of all newborns and their exposure to risk of hearing loss, and evaluated their hearing by transient otoacoustic emission technology. Those who demonstrated bilateral moderate to profound hearing loss at both a first and second screening were referred for diagnostic assessment. Those with confirmed hearing loss received treatment and regular follow-up appointments, and their speech development was assessed at 1 year of age. We determined effectiveness by comparing our achieved coverage and proportion of follow-up and referrals with benchmarks set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (≥ 95%, ≥ 95% and ≤ 4%, respectively), and determined benefit by calculating the composite language scores of hearing-impaired infants who received early intervention.

Findings

We screened 6140 eligible newborns, and achieved a screening coverage of 95.4% (5859/6140), lost 25.7% (63/245) and 22.0% (9/41) to follow-up at the second screening and diagnostic assessment stages, respectively, and obtained an overall proportion of referrals of 0.7% (41/6140). Twelve infants were confirmed as having hearing loss and received early intervention; nine (75%) demonstrated normal speech development by their first birthday. Our universal hearing screening yielded a prevalence of sensorineural hearing loss of less than 0.1% (3/6140).

Conclusion

Although ineffective by American Academy of Pediatrics standards, we demonstrated the benefit of early intervention in infants diagnosed with hearing loss.