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Baby Jake in sound hands with hearing team

A hospital team has just screened the hearing of its 24,000th baby. Southport and Ormskirk NHS Hospital Trust’s Newborn hearing screening team has been based at Ormskirk hospital since 2005. Around 80% of newborns are screened prior to leaving hospital, and the remaining within four to five weeks of birth. Two-day-old Jake Owen became the 24,000th baby to be screened. Mark Billing, manager of the team of seven, said: “We offer this service every day of the year, even on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We screen more than 2500 babies each year to identify those at risk of hearing loss. “Jake is our 24,000th baby and we are happy to report that he has passed his hearing screen.” A hand held device is used for screening and a small soft tip is placed in the baby’s ear canal. The device detects echoes in the ear. The essential procedure only takes a few minutes. The NHS newborn hearing screening programme (NHSP) aims to identify moderate, severe and profound deafness and hearing impairment in newborn babies. It offers all parents in England the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing tested shortly after birth. Early identification of hearing impairment gives children a better chance of developing speech and language skills, and of making the most of social and emotional interaction from an early age. Approximately, one or two babies out of 1000 may be found to have a permanent, childhood hearing impairment. Mark added: “We are here to detect if there is a problem with hearing and identify it as soon as possible. That means the baby and family can be directed to support services. “A baby as young as one-month-old could have hearing aids fitted which will greatly improve the hearing. Problems would arise if the baby’s hearing wasn’t assessed and left for a period of months.” Louise Near, Lynda Shields, Sam Baker and Sarah Carr work as hearing screeners. Louise said: “We enjoy this job and families of newborns are very happy to see us visit. They like to know if something as important as hearing is getting screened in those early first hours of life.” Lynda Shields said: “It is a lovely job. We get all the smiles from families as they have just welcomed a new baby into the world.” Sam Baker added: “Although problems are very rare, it is good to detect when a baby’s hearing isn’t quite right. Because there is the time to assess the problem and we can direct the family to the most appropriate support services.” Adult audiology tests take place at Southport hospital. In total audiology has 23 members of staff with more than 200 years of experience between them. Last year they performed 6000 hearing tests, 3500 hearing screens, fitted 5500 hearing aids and attended to 35,000 patients via an open access drop-in clinic at Southport hospital.

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