Infant Hearing Program – Information for professionals

What is the Infant Hearing Program?

The Infant Hearing Program provides services from birth to school-entry, including:

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What you should know and how you can help

International benchmarks for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention programs follow a 1-3-6 guideline which involves:

Screening by ONE MONTH

Hearing screening should be completed by one month (corrected) age wherever possible. Services are available in hospital or community settings for Ontario infants. You can:

  • Ask families about the hearing screen and any recommended follow-up.
  • Monitor hearing, speech and language milestones.
  • Connect families with the Infant Hearing Program, if needed.
  • Refer infants with acquired risk factors for hearing loss.
Assessment by THREE MONTHS

Infants whose hearing screens produce a “refer” result are assessed by audiologists with the Infant Hearing Program using evidence-based protocols. Permanent hearing loss should be identified by three months (corrected) age, wherever possible. You can:

  • Ask families about the audiology assessment and recommendations.
  • Support any recommended medical referrals (i.e. otolaryngology or genetic consultations).
Intervention by SIX MONTHS

Intervention is available for those infants identified with permanent hearing loss. This may include amplification and/or language development services, where chosen by families. Intervention should be in place by six months (corrected) age, wherever possible. You can:

  • Confirm families are attending follow-up appointments.
  • Encourage the consistent use of any prescribed amplification (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Hearing devices must be worn during all waking hours for the child to realize the greatest benefit.

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Identifying children at risk for permanent hearing loss

Hearing screeners conduct a risk assessment at the time of the hearing screen. Families are also offered a risk factor screen to look for additional risks which may not be evident in the newborn period. The risk factor screen is performed by Newborn Screening Ontario using the same sample collected by the hospital or midwife for the newborn blood spot screening (heel prick test) and can detect:

  1. Congenital cytomegalovirus infection, which is associated with progressive hearing loss in childhood as well as other medical implications, and
  2. Several common genetic factors that are associated with permanent hearing loss at birth or in early childhood.

The Infant Hearing Program also accepts referrals when a risk indicator is identified after the hearing screen has been completed. Please contact your local Infant Hearing Program for information about risk factors for permanent hearing loss.

Did you know?

Healthy babies may pass their hearing screen but can still have Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder. This condition can impact the audibility and clarity of sounds to varying degrees such that even if a child is able to hear sounds, those sounds may be too distorted and inconsistent to allow them to develop speech appropriately. It is identified in about eight per cent of children with hearing loss and is more commonly caused by genetic anomalies, perinatal hypoxia, hyperbilirubinemia or infections.

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Additional resources

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