New Infant Screening Option: Hearing Loss Risk Factors

Posted Thursday September 26, 2019

Posted By: Jeffery Satchwill

Category: General

What is new with infant hearing screening?

Babies born on or after July 29, 2019 will be eligible for an additional hearing screening test. The Hearing Loss Risk Factor Blood Spot screen does not replace the physiological screen completed by The Ontario Infant Hearing Program, but instead is a complement to the traditional hearing screen offered.

Using the same blood sample collected by hospitals and midwives for Newborn Screening Ontario routine newborn screening and once parental consent is obtained by the Ontario Infant Hearing Program, Newborn Screening Ontario will further test the infant’s blood spot sample for:

  • Congenital cytomegalovirus:  an infection associated with risk for progressive permanent hearing loss in childhood and other medical implications.

and

  • Several common genetic mutations associated with permanent hearing loss in early childhood.

The risk factor screen is explained to families and consent is recorded by the Ontario Infant Hearing Program staff.  The choice of consent/decline is then shared with Newborn Screening Ontario.

No extra blood is required for the hearing loss risk factor screen.

Hearing screening appointments are available to permanent Ontario residents under the age of 2 months (corrected age). In Ottawa and surrounding areas, birthing hospitals and midwives refer families to the Ontario Infant Hearing Programdirectly and families can be seen at a number of community-based locations across the region. 

There is no need to change the standard discussion you have with families about newborn blood spot screening. However, the importance of booking their baby’s physiological hearing screening appointment as soon as possible should be stressed to parents. Families who have not heard from the Ontario Infant Hearing Program within the first week of baby’s life should be counselled to contact the Ontario Infant Hearing Program right away.

Only families of babies who screen positive will be contacted by Newborn Screening Ontario. They will be prioritized for follow-up services through the Ontario Infant Hearing Program and will undergo audiological surveillance throughout early childhood.

Symptomatic Congenital CMV infants may be eligible for antiviral treatment and will be followed by pediatric Infectious Diseases specialists.  Timely identification of symptomatic infants is crucial in meeting treatment eligibility.

What if my infant patient screens positive for Congenital CMV or a genetic risk factor?

CMV screen positive infants will require an initial, timely medical evaluation to determine whether symptoms of Congenital CMV are present, as treatment may be an option for some symptomatic infants.

Newborn Screening Ontario has recruited a group of Community Pediatricians from across the province, who have received additional education on Congenital CMV. These Pediatricians will see CMV positive infants in referral for the initial assessment and developmental follow-up. The role of these Community Pediatricians is not to replace primary care, but rather to provide specialized care related to Congenital CMV.

You may be notified by Newborn Screening Ontario in the event one of your patients has a positive CMV or genetic risk factor screening result. As with other newborn screen positive results, Newborn Screening Ontario may ask for your assistance in disclosing the result to the family and explaining the next steps required. Experience has shown there is often benefit to a family being informed of results initially through a familiar health care provider.

Risk factor screening results for Permanent Hearing Loss will be reported separately from Newborn Screening Ontario’s newborn screening results report. They will be routinely sent to the Infant Hearing Program in the region which the baby was screened. Please visit the Request Screening Results page  for information about how to request and interpret risk factor screening results for a patient.

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Roxane Bélanger, M.O.A.(C), reg. CASLPO | Membre OOAO   
Speech Language Pathologist | Orthophoniste

First Words Ottawa & Renfrew County | Premiers Mots Ottawa & Comté de Renfrew

PQCHC | 1365 Chemin Richmond Road, Ottawa (ON), K2B 6R7
(613) 688-3979, X3457 | Fax/Télec.: (613) 820-7427 | r.belanger@pqchc.com

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