In Canada more than 2,000 children are born with hearing loss per year.
Canada does not have a national infant hearing mandate.
Early hearing screening and programs vary widely between provinces and territories.
- A baby born in British Columbia has a greater-than 95% chance of being screened for hearing problems, and if necessary, will receive essential early intervention to provide access to the world of sound, and access to language (spoken language and/or sign language).
- In Quebec, screening rates are lower than 20%.
Access to screening and, if needed, early intervention programs is essential for communicating with parents and for brain development in the very early months of life. While some provinces do have screening in place, they have no process or policy for the critical intervention needed to assist communication at this crucial life stage.
The ideal timeline for helping your child with their hearing is, screening at 1 month, diagnosis at 3 months and intervention by 6 months of age.
Waiting creates unnecessary and preventable challenges for the child, the parents, the healthcare system and the education system. There are no obvious signs early in a baby’s life to tell if they have hearing loss, which is why newborn testing should be required across the whole of Canada, equally.
The Long Term Effects of Undiagnosed Hearing Loss At An Early Age
If hearing loss is discovered later, the language delay has already done irreparable damage. Babies need to be exposed to a language early for proper development. Sign language will be just as important as spoken language in this case.
There are four major ways in which hearing loss affects children*:
- It causes delay in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language).
- The language deficit causes learning problems that can result in reduced academic achievement.
- Communication difficulties often lead to social isolation and poor self-concept.
- It may have an impact on vocational choices.
For example, children with hearing loss comprehend and produce shorter and simpler sentences than children with normal hearing, and they often cannot hear quiet speech sounds such as “s,” “sh,” “f,” “t,” and “k” and therefore do not include them in their speech. Thus, their speech may be difficult to understand.
Hearing loss is invisible and many babies live for months, even years without diagnosis. This can cause preventable and unnecessary cognitive and developmental setbacks
*Stats from: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Effects-of-Hearing-Loss-on-Development/