Newborn hearing screening a money saver for society
Society makes long term gains in more than human terms when all newborns are screened for hearing loss and other hearing disorders. It saves money, too.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that the monetary gains from universal newborn hearing screening outweigh the cost because more children receive timely treatment.
The calculations of the researchers are based on United States data. They show that the savings to the American society from 100 percent universal hearing screening of all newborns in any given year amount to US$2.33 billion. This compares to savings of $1.46 billion when only newborns deemed to be at risk for hearing loss are screened in a selective screening program.
Better speech development
The gains from screening of newborns are tied to their speech development. When a hearing loss is detected and treated early, the children have a much improved chance of developing normal speech. This results in a reduction of cost for special education and, later in life, for lost or reduced productivity.
The study indicated that universal newborn hearing screening increases the chance for hearing impaired children developing normal speech by 23 percent. Universal screening results in early identification of hearing loss before the age of 6 months in three times as many children as would be identified with no universal screening program.
Screening of all newborns was found to have some drawbacks, as well. Some parents may be told mistakenly that their children have a hearing loss. Even if a faulty diagnosis is corrected at follow-up examinations, the early misdiagnosis may cause unnecessary distress for the parents.
Source: Projected Cost-Effectiveness of State Wide Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, Pediatrics 2002, No. 5.