|OTTAWA — Genetic factors and infections are the leading causes of permanent hearing loss for newborns and young children. That’s why the Ontario government is putting people and patients first by continuing to deliver on its promise to protect what matters most so that babies across the province can get earlier diagnosis and interventions to improve their health outcomes.
Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, was joined by Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to announced on Wednesday that the government is expanding Ontario’s newborn screening program to include the permanent hearing loss risk test for earlier identification of babies at risk for hearing loss.
“Ontario continues to be a leader in newborn screening and we are proud to be the first province in Canada to add the permanent hearing loss risk test for all newborns,” said Elliott. “Some children are not born with permanent hearing loss but will develop it in early childhood. Adding this screen for common permanent hearing loss risk factors will enable earlier diagnosis and intervention and, in doing so, improve health outcomes for children across Ontario. Our government is protecting what matters most by ensuring that the smallest patients have access to the appropriate care and treatment at the right time.”
Newborn screening services are provided through Newborn Screening Ontario and completed by taking a blood sample through a heel prick from each baby between 24 to 48 hours after birth. The added screen for risk of permanent hearing loss will not require collecting additional blood. Ontario also provides universal newborn hearing screening for infants through the Infant Hearing Program.
“We want to give the youngest Ontarians the best possible start in life,” said Smith. “This collaboration between the Infant Hearing Program and Newborn Screening Ontario will place Ontario at the forefront of early detection and intervention for early childhood permanent hearing loss. We know that the sooner we can act, the better the outcomes will be for the smallest of patients and their families.”
“We know that undetected hearing loss can cause delays in a baby’s ability to develop language and can lead to behavioural and emotional problems later in life,” said Dunlop. “Identifying and responding to hearing concerns early leads to better outcomes and more efficient ways of providing services.”
Expected to be offered as of July 29, 2019, the new permanent hearing loss risk test will identify approximately 100 additional babies per year who are affected by, or at risk of, hearing loss.
“Since CHEO was given responsibility for Newborn Screening Ontario in 2006, our dedicated and highly trained physicians and staff have screened almost 2 million babies to help them achieve their best life,” said Alex Munter, President and Chief Executive Officer, CHEO. “We are pleased to add to that foundation to also support Ontario’s Infant Hearing Program in strengthening hearing screening in our province.”