The government of Ontario, Canada is providing additional support to detect potential hearing loss in newborns sooner and ensure that families with children who have permanent hearing loss—or are at risk—get the supports they need, according to an announcement on the government’s website.

Michael Coteau, minister of Children and Youth Services, announced the expansion of the province’s Infant Hearing Program at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO-OCTC) in Ottawa. The provincewide program screens babies for hearing loss soon after birth and provides families with supports and services that children need to develop language and literacy skills during the most critical period of development. According to the announcement, the province’s support will reduce wait times for families and increase the program’s service capacity.

“We know that investing early in a child’s life gives them a better chance of success,” said Coteau. “With our government’s expansion of the Infant Hearing Program—along with the dedication and commitment of community partners, agencies, and staff—babies who have permanent hearing loss will have access to supports and services that help them to reach their full potential.”

“Investing in the Infant Hearing Program means more families will get the support they need, when they need it,” said Alex Munter, president and CEO of CHEO-OCTO. “As program partners, CHEO-OCTC’s Audiology Clinic is exemplary in offering families the comfort and peace of mind they need to make informed decisions about hearing technology and language development, and giving these children the best start in life.”

With the early identification of permanent hearing loss, families can make informed decisions about what services and supports their children need, such as hearing aids or communication and language development services. These services also help children get ready to start school.

“About 2 to 3 babies in 1,000 are born with permanent hearing loss,” said Marie Pigeon, senior audiologist, CHEO-OCTC, designated training center for the Infant Hearing Program. “Finding hearing loss in the very young and providing comprehensive intervention is extremely important to the growth, development, and success of these children. This announcement is great news for our families here at CHEO-OCTC, and families and providers across all of Ontario.”

Quick Facts (provided by the Ontario Government)

  • Ontario is investing an additional $3.2 million to further enhance the Infant Hearing Program for children and their families across Ontario.
  • Ontario newborns have been screened for hearing loss for over 15 years through the Infant Hearing Program.
  • Since the Infant Hearing Program began in 2001, it has exceeded the internationally set target for universal newborn screening of 90%, by screening 93-96% of all babies born in Ontario.
  • In 2016-17, more than 130,000 newborns received a hearing screen through the Infant Hearing Program.
  • In 2017, Ontario will reportedly be a world leader in early detection and intervention of early childhood permanent hearing loss by implementing an enhanced infant hearing screen, which was announced earlier this year. According to the government, this makes Ontario the first jurisdiction in the world to screen for permanent hearing loss using a blood spot as part of a comprehensive hearing screening program.
  • Ten years ago, the average age of identification for children born with permanent hearing loss was two and a half years. Today, with the Infant Hearing Program, children are identified at less than four months of age.
  • In many cases, children who receive services through the Infant Hearing Program are able to develop language on par with their hearing peers by school entry.

Additional Resources

Source: Government of Ontario