Staff Reporter

Babies born at SAT Hospital to benefit from programme

Thiruvananthapuram: The Department of Paediatric Neurology at SAT Hospital has started a universal screening programme to detect hearing abnormalities in newborns.

All babies born at SAT Hospital will now undergo the screening for hearing abnormalities as part of routine neo-natal check-up before they are discharged. This is the first time that a universal hearing screening programme is being introduced in a Government hospital in the State.

The functioning of the neonatal screening unit was formally inaugurated by Pannian Ravindran, MP, at the hospital on Thursday.

The hospital has acquired new equipment to the tune of Rs.13 lakh to set up the hearing screening unit. About Rs.9 lakh was contributed from the MP's fund of the late P.K. Vasudevan Nair.

The equipment acquired includes oto acoustic emission (OAE) analyser, neuro sonogram, tympanometry device and pure tone audiogram. Delay in detecting hearing abnormalities can have a profound effect on a child's language development, affecting the child's social and educational development.

Hearing impairment in children is rarely detected before the first year. Cases of partial deafness often go undetected. Parents usually recognise the problem when there is a delay in speech development, but often this is attributed to a family trait and ignored till the deafness becomes very obvious, say doctors.

"A child's speech development is established by the time s/he turns two years. Hence, it is extremely important that any abnormalities in hearing are detected early and intervention and support programmes started immediately," says P.A. Mohammed Kunju, head of Paediatric Neurology at SAT Hospital.

OAE screening is a modern method adopted by many health systems in Europe as part of the general neonatal health programmes to detect hearing abnormalities. It is a painless test that can be performed on a newborn in the first week of birth. The results are given immediately and the doctor/audiologist can say whether a baby needs to undergo further investigations.

"Our goal should be to screen and detect hearing impairments before three months of age and start intervention therapies by the age of six months. A baby starts responding to sounds only by the age of six months and this is the time that speech therapy should be introduced. Hearing aids should also be introduced by the age of four months, so that the infant accepts it as a part of himself," says Dr. Mohammed Kunju.

OAE screening facility will be extended to babies born at the Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud also, says hospital authorities.