Universal newborn hearing screening should be in national health agenda

By AUFA MARDHIAH / Pic by BERNAMA

Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar supports the proposal to adopt the national ear and hearing care program as one of the national health agenda.

He also asserts the importance of hearing impairment in infants and children as it is a hidden disability, whereby the failure of early detection will impact the children’s future.

“Based on the analysis of the program, it was found that the permanent hearing problems are 4 for every 1000 babies screened, but the number of babies screened for hearing is currently only 62% of the live birth rate. The percentage needs to be improved to meet the standards set by the International Joint Committee on Infant Hearing at 95% and above,” he said at the national level launching of the World Hearing Day 2022 yesterday.

World Hearing Day 2022 will focus on the importance and means of hearing loss prevention through safe listening encompassing the possibility to have good hearing across the life course through ear and hearing care, prevention of common causes of hearing loss including hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds, adapting ‘Safe listening’ by mitigating the risk of hearing loss associated with recreational sound exposure and WHO calls upon governments, industry partners and civil society on raising awareness and implement evidence-based standards that promote safe listening.

In 2021, WHO launched the World report on hearing that highlighted the increasing number of people living with and at risk of hearing loss. It highlighted noise control as one of the seven key H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions and stressed the importance of mitigating exposure to loud sounds.

Datuk Dr. Siti Sabzah Mohd Hashim, Head of Head of National Otorhinolaryngology informed that there are few challenges in identifying hearing problems in the infant age, such as hidden disability that limits the diagnosis from detecting hearing problems earlier and neurodevelopment which is the growth of a baby through a phase of selective connection.

“I would like to suggest the 136 methods to identify neonatal hearing problems, which is screening to be done in the first month, confirmation on the third month and intervention to start on the sixth month.

It is difficult to achieve if there is no specific program to help, hence with the advancement of technology, infant’s hearing problems can be detected as early as birth. in Malaysia MOH has taken the initiative to start neonatal hearing screening in MOH hospitals since 2001 when candidates from audiology participated in providing services,” she added.