New equipment to test hearing loss in babies

The Friends of Eastbourne Hospital have donated new equipment, costing around £25,000, to test for hearing loss in babies and young children.

A national screening programme is in place to screen babies hearing. In most cases, screening takes place before the baby leaves hospital. Babies who fail the screen are referred to the Paediatric Audiology Department for a specialist diagnostic hearing test called an Auditory Brainstem Response test. It is this test which confirms the babies hearing status.

In the UK, around 1-2 in every 1,000 babies are born with permanent hearing loss in either one or both ears. In East Sussex, between 5-10 babies are born every year with some degree of permanent hearing loss in one or both ears.

The new Biosense Navigator Pro Auditory Evoked Response equipment allows diagnostic testing of babies who are just a few days old.  It can also be used to assess children with learning disabilities or development delays when conventional hearing tests cannot be performed.

Small sensors are placed on the baby’s forehead and behind each ear. Clicks or tones are presented to the sleeping baby through headphones. The equipment measures small electrical signals produced by the auditory pathway when stimulated by the sounds.

James Penfold, Paediatric Audiology Clinical Lead said “We are extremely grateful to the Friends for their generous donation of the new equipment. It will enhance our ability to make early diagnosis of hearing loss in babies and young children. The early diagnosis and intervention will result in a better outcome for the children and their families.”

Harry Walmsley, Chairman of The Friends of Eastbourne Hospital said: “The Friends of the Eastbourne Hospital are delighted to be able to donate this advanced equipment to provide local babies and their parents an early diagnosis about potential hearing loss.”