Newborn hearing manager Julie Stones and her team offer a crucial service to new parents, testing their new babies for hearing loss.
At least one in every 900 babies born in the UK will have a permanent childhood hearing impairment that can significantly affect their language and social development. This figure increases to about 1 in every 100 babies who have spent more than 48 hours in intensive care. The majority of these babies are born into families with no experience or history of hearing loss.
Julie and her six staff are always on hand to screen newborns’ hearing before they go home from hospital.
“Years ago, babies’ hearing was screened by health visitors when they were eight months old, but the tests were not that accurate and they missed a large number of children,” explains Julie. “By testing as soon after birth as possible, we can identify moderate, severe and profound deafness or hearing impairment. Early identification gives babies a better chance of developing speech and language skills as they grow.”
The hearing screening tests use sophisticated technology and are entirely safe and comfortable for babies.
“Babies almost always sleep through them,”says Julie. “The test only takes a few seconds and we get the result straight away.”
Every day is busy for the team – with around 4,000 babies born at Milton Keynes hospital every year there are new babies to screen every day.
“Each morning we check to see how many babies have been born overnight and we visit Wards 9 and 10 to perform the tests. We also check to see if any babies have been discharged home with their mums straight from the labour ward, so that we can follow up and ensure they are screened.
“It’s a wonderful rewarding job and we’re a close team so we share experiences and learn from each other,” adds Julie.