Editorials

Measuring the prevalence of permanent childhood hearing impairment

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7312.525 (Published 08 September 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:525

The introduction of screening makes this important and timely

  1. Shirley Russ, assistant professor of pediatrics (shirlyruss@aol.com)
  1. Department of Primary Care Pediatrics, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA

    Papers p 536

    In June 2000 Britain's health minister announced the introduction of universal neonatal hearing screening into the United Kingdom with initial pilot programmes at 20 sites. 1 2 Such universal neonatal screening is now also mandated in 35 of the 50 states of the United States, with legislation in other states pending.3 There is only one existing controlled trial of this approach,4 the remaining studies having compared their results with historical data. Although initial results are promising, they are primarily from hospital centres, often with a strong research interest, with relatively short follow up. Whether these results can be sustained when screening is introduced across whole communities, and when programmes are subjected to long term follow up, remains to be determined.

    Given this setting, it is particularly important that new, universal screening programmes are evaluated adequately. One way to achieve this in the short term is to compare the observed prevalence of targeted hearing impairments being detected by the new screening programme with the expected prevalence in the population. Unfortunately neither the United Kingdom nor the United States currently collect national data on all cases of permanent childhood hearing impairment, so expected prevalence …

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