asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of children born deaf is diagnosed within (a) one year, (b) two years, (c) three years and (d) after three years; if he is satisfied with the facilities available to diagnose deafness in children early on; if he has any plans to improve such facilities; and if he will make a statement.
Statistics of children diagnosed as congenitally deaf are not collected centrally.The Department has stressed the importance of the early detection of hearing loss in children to all levels of staff in health authorities because of the implications such loss has on general, and particularly language, development. A subcommittee, set up by the Advisory Committee on Services for Hearing-Impaired People (ACSHIP) to look at services for hearing-impaired children, recommended in 1976 that, as an absolute minimum, all children should be screened for hearing at about 8 months and again during the first year at school. It also recommended that any child showing signs of a hearing loss should be referred for further investigation.The sub-committee, reconvened early in 1979, is expected to publish its final report at the end of this year making further recommendations on the screening and diagnosis of hearing impairment in children.A recent paper prepared by the Department entitled " Prevention in the Child Health Services" stresses the importance of a programme of basic health surveillance including home visiting. Screening for hearing impairment is included in the recommended reviews of development at ages 7 to 8 months, 18 months and 3 years.
In addition to routine screening, any child known to be at risk or with a suspected defect is, of course, referred for detailed examination.
The Department is also currently funding a research project which is looking at objective methods of hearing testing of neonates.