Ontario Announces Additions to the Newborn Screen Program

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The health of young and newborn children is a top concern for all parents.

To help ease the concerns of parents and better support the health of children, the Government of Ontario has plans to expand the Newborn Screening Program.

On Wednesday (July 3), Christine Elliott, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, was joined by Todd Smith, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and Jill Dunlop, the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to announce that the expansion plans for the province’s newborn screening program.

The program will now include a permanent hearing loss risk test for earlier identification of babies at risk for hearing loss. 

Ontario continues to be a leader in newborn screening, and we are proud to be the first province in Canada to add the permanent hearing loss risk test for all newborns,” said Elliott. “Some children are not born with permanent hearing loss but will develop it in early childhood. Adding this screen for common permanent hearing loss risk factors will enable earlier diagnosis and intervention and, in doing so, improve health outcomes for children across Ontario. Our government is protecting what matters most by ensuring that the smallest patients have access to the appropriate care and treatment at the right time.”

Newborn Screening Ontario performs young screening services. The process uses a blood sample through a heel prick from each baby between 24 to 48 hours after birth. The added screening for the risk of permanent hearing loss will not need more blood taken.

NSO manages a province-wide system that screens all newborns for a range of serious, treatable diseases and conditions, with over 145,000 screens annually.

Since NSO’s founding in 2006, it has tested over 1.9 million newborns and identified over 2,500 babies who were diagnosed with diseases.

We want to give the youngest Ontarians the best possible start in life,” said Smith. “This collaboration between the Infant Hearing Program and Newborn Screening Ontario will place Ontario at the forefront of early detection and intervention for early childhood permanent hearing loss. We know that the sooner we can act, the better the outcomes will be for the smallest of patients and their families.”

Ontario also provides universal newborn hearing screening for infants via the Infant Hearing Program.

We know that undetected hearing loss can cause delays in a baby’s ability to develop language and can lead to behavioural and emotional problems later in life,” said Dunlop. “Identifying and responding to hearing concerns early leads to better outcomes and more efficient ways of providing services.”

The new permanent hearing loss risk test is expected to be offered to start July 29 and hopes to identify approximately 100 additional babies per year who are affected by, or at risk of, hearing loss.

More information on Newborn Screening Ontario may be found here.

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