Last week, we ran a story on single-sided deafness (SSD) through a case study of a young patient named Savannah Douglas. We reported about the severity of this type of hearing loss, and how it could impact a person’s life, especially if one’s a child who is unable to relate to an adult the full extend of his or her condition. Any type of hearing loss is hard on a child, and sometimes parents or guardians may miss the signs until it’s too late to work on a hearing loss condition. But through observation, they can look for these signs in a child and get help.
We spoke to consultant ENT Dr Tang Mee Ling of Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMVC) on how to identify deafness in babies and toddlers.
Are newborn babies in Malaysia checked for any kind of hearing impairment?
The critical period for language and speech development is generally within the first three years of life. Children who are identified with hearing loss between birth and 6 months of age and who receive immediate intervention have significantly higher cognitive, language and social development. Therefore, a neonatal hearing screening is the best way to minimise the adverse effects of hearing loss.
Universal neonatal hearing screening (UNHS) program is the current standard practice in developed countries to detect hearing loss among children at the very early age. The purpose of UNHS is to detect hearing loss in newborn babies before 3 months of age and provide appropriate intervention no later than 6 months of age.
In Malaysia, the high-risk neonatal hearing screening program (HRNHS) has been introduced in the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals since 2001. In 2014, 30 hospitals implemented HRNHS while 6 hospitals run UNHS the programme. It is estimated that more hospitals will follow suit in the near future.
(Info from Guidelines of Neonatal Hearing Screening)