Newborn hearing screening ‘best thing for your child’

Hodan Mohamed and her children from left: Fatuma, 7, holding Zaynab, 5 weeks; Salman 22 months and Basra, 4.
Hodan Mohamed and her children from left: Fatuma, 7, holding Zaynab, 5 weeks; Salman 22 months and Basra, 4.
Mother of four, Hodan Mohamed, knows first-hand how valuable newborn hearing screening checks are.

Hodan moved to New Zealand from Kenya nine years ago and had her first child, Fatuma, before the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Early Intervention Programme (UNHSEIP) was available.

Hodan expressed concern to her GP that Fatuma was not talking at 18 months, but was assured that all children develop at different stages. “I was a first time mum and didn’t know any different, so just accepted it was all okay,” she says.

It was only when another doctor examined Fatuma and was unable to get her attention by talking to her that it became clear something was wrong. Fatuma was diagnosed with congenital bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and in 2009 had a cochlear implant. Unfortunately, the implant failed because of nerve damage and another implant was successfully carried out in 2011.

Fatuma is now seven and all communication is through sign language.

“If the newborn hearing checks were available when Fatuma was born, she could have had the cochlear implant and would now be able to talk like everyone else,” says Hodan.

Hodan and her husband have since had three other children, all of whom had the newborn hearing screening checks and who are regularly re-checked. “Because of Fatuma, I have been nervous for the others. The checks have reassured me,” says Hodan.  Her two-year old son Salman has recently had grommets fitted, as tests picked up he had glue ear.

The UNHSEIP is a joint initiative. The Ministry of Health has responsibility for screening, diagnosis of hearing loss, and medical interventions, including devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. The Ministry of Education has responsibility for early intervention education services.

The core goals of the programme, which are based on international best practice, are described as ‘1-3-6’ goals:

1 = babies to be screened by one month of age
3 = audiology assessment completed by three months of age
6 = initiation of appropriate medical, audiological and early intervention education services by six months of age.

“The newborn hearing checks are absolutely the best thing to do for your child,” says Hodan, who urges all mothers to ensure their babies are screened. “The testing is often done when your baby is asleep and doesn’t hurt them. My babies slept through them.”

Hodan’s youngest daughter Zaynab is just five weeks old, and much to Hodan’s relief, passed the newborn hearing screening performed by the Capital & Coast DHB UNHSEIP.

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Page last updated: 30 October 2013