Canada should introduce a national universal screening program for infant hearing to help identify children born with hearing loss, argues a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
The United States and the United Kingdom have national screening programs, unlike Canada, which has universal screening in only six provinces: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Approximately 2000 children will be born with hearing loss in Canada each year. "This rate is alarming, and we feel it is sufficient to require a universal screening program," write Drs. Antoine Eskander, University of Toronto, and Blake Papsin, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario.
It is important to catch hearing loss early because delayed diagnosis and treatment can permanently affect a child's ability to speak. As well, there is evidence that screening and early treatment save costs in the long term.
"As a society we have agreed to fund lung transplantation in Canada, despite its high cost, because it is considered worth the cost," write the authors. "Yet we have not implemented universal screening for infant hearing in all of our provinces and territories despite evidence that it is cost-saving."
The authors call for increased awareness of hearing loss in infants and urge health care providers to advocate for universal screening for infant hearing.