The Ontario government is providing $3.8 million to support hearing checks for infants who did not receive the universal newborn hearing screen due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Over the past several months, Infant Hearing Program lead agencies suspended the newborn hearing screen commonly provided pre-discharge from hospitals and in community locations based on the advice of health officials.
As the province re-opens, Infant Hearing Program lead agencies are now starting to safely resume in-person services. Understanding how vital the Infant Hearing Program is to the development and wellness of infants, this additional investment will increase audiology capacity by hiring audiologists and increasing referrals for hearing checks. Newborns who did not receive a newborn hearing screen can now do so.
“Supporting the health and well-being of newborns and their families is a priority,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “These additional funds mean that newborns who missed their hearing screening will now be able to receive this vital service, and that concerns or risks can be addressed early and infants are provided with the support they need as soon as possible.”
Ontario’s Infant Hearing Program provides universal hearing tests for newborn babies to detect signs of early hearing loss in children. Infants who are identified as having hearing loss are then referred to a specialist who will work with his/her parents to ensure they have the resources to develop the critical language and literacy skills needed to be successful in school and in their communities.
In 2019-20 the government invested $13.6 million in the Infant Hearing Program.
In the 2019-20 fiscal year, 128,327 babies were screened across Ontario. Of these, approximately 500 were identified with permanent hearing loss.
Infant Hearing Program lead agencies will arrange a hearing check by an audiologist for babies who missed their newborn hearing screen. Contact the Infant Hearing Program location near you for more information.