Page 3483 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 15 November 2006

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Wednesday, 15 November 2006

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Health—hearing problems in babies

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (10.32): I move:

That this Assembly notes:

(1) the importance of screening new born babies for early health intervention;

(2) that early detection of a hearing problem ensures early treatment and better outcomes for the baby concerned; and

(3) that the long term value of establishing hearing in otherwise deaf babies is immeasurable and allows individuals to integrate into normal school appropriately.

Early hearing loss is one of the most common developmental abnormalities present at birth. Hearing impairment in children is known to impact speech and language development, as well as general childhood development. Current international research suggests that early diagnosis and intervention such as amplification—through hearing aids or cochlear ear implants—and special education helps most children with hearing loss. Usually children who are diagnosed and receive intervention before the age of six months demonstrate better speech, language development and learning skills than those who are diagnosed at a later age.

Without a screening program, babies often are not identified or diagnosed until at least one year of age and often as late as two to three years of age after language delays become clear. When hearing loss is detected late, these babies are at higher risk of having poorer long-term outcomes in language and learning. The ramifications of this are enormous.

Children are more likely to perform below their grade level, be held back or drop out of school altogether. These consequences are in sharp contrast to those children who are identified early, who receive early intervention and then are found to function at the level of their peers by the time they enter school.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, known as the NHMRC, has noted that early detection of permanent childhood hearing impairment is one of the most pressing screening issues of childhood. In 2002 the council noted that screening is not only pressing but now also viable due to improved hearing technology. It is this access to better technology that has made universal hearing screening possible.

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