Infant Hearing Program
Developing language at a young age is vital; in fact, the first months and years of a baby’s life is crucial for learning and developing communication. For the most part, the majority of children can naturally hear right from the time of birth. Typically babies develop speech by imitating what they hear from their family members, parents, or caregivers and they will try to mimic those sounds from an early age. Of course with that said, not every child is born with this capability.
Studies reveal that almost four in 1,000 babies are born deaf or hard of hearing in Ontario each year. While some of these babies have risk factors associated with hearing loss, there are others with no risk factors who, in the past, would most likely have been identified late, putting those infants at an even greater disadvantage in developing normal speech and language. To ensure your child receives the proper care and attention it’s imperative that hearing loss is detected as quickly as possible and at a very early age if able.
Why Early Detection is Crucial
It’s really important that your baby is screened and receives the proper hearing tests, to find out whether or not there is hearing loss present. Undetected hearing loss can contribute to delays in your baby’s speech development. Complications associated with learning to speak could also lead to behavioural and emotional issues especially when your child reaches school age.
The sooner hearing loss is identified, the better. There are many services available to help children with hearing loss. Finding out early means that they can get the help they need right away. And this gives them the same chance to develop language skills as hearing children.
In 2002 the Ministry of Children and Youth Services started the Infant Hearing Program in Ontario.
The Ontario Infant Hearing Program is funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, and it strives to:
- Identify infants who have permanent hearing impairment
- Offer family members critical information to make timely, educated decisions
- Provides the services required to maximize your child’s communication and language development.
Since the Program was implemented all babies born in Ontario hospitals receive special hearing tests, and are screened at birth for hearing loss, prior to leaving for home. A baby who receives a “refer” result on the initial hearing test is either sent for further screening at a professional hearing clinic, or to a Ministry approved Audiologist for advanced diagnostic testing. This implementation of the Infant Hearing Program was, and is, important because researchers have established that early identification of hearing loss is an important factor in the development of normal speech and language and future success in school. Prior to implementation of the Program children with hearing loss were often not identified until they were over two years of age and at times not until they entered school. Research statistics show that 3-4 in 1,000 babies are born with a permanent hearing impairment. While some of these babies have risk factors associated with hearing loss, there are others with no risk factors who, in the past, would most likely have been identified late, putting those infants at an even greater disadvantage in developing normal speech and language.
Lynne Burdett and Janet Michaud have been providing audiology, diagnostic and amplification services to the paediatric population in Brampton for the past 26 years. In 1989, 13 years before Ontario started a province wide program, Lynne and Janet introduced an infant hearing screening program at Peel Memorial Hospital testing babies at risk for hearing loss at 3 months of age. Lynne and Janet continued to provide care, service and follow up to hearing impaired children and their families throughout Brampton and the surrounding community as they moved the audiology department from the hospital into Peel Audiology and Hearing Aid Services in 1996. One of the most touching aspects of early identification is seeing these children thrive and grow into wonderful, active, participating young adults.
To operate the Infant Hearing Program, the province is divided into geographical regions with a select group of Audiologists approved by the Ministry to perform the advanced diagnostic services. With the support of the local Ear Nose and Throat physicians and itinerant teachers for the hearing impaired, Lynne and Janet were chosen as the approved Audiologists responsible for diagnostic and amplification services for the Infant Hearing Program in Brampton and the surrounding communities. The Ministry’s goal is to identify all babies with permanent hearing loss and fit them with hearing aids by 6 months of age. The successful achievement of this goal should have a profoundly positive outcome in the lives of those infants affected by hearing impairment.