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 I have worked in the neonatal hearing screening program for a full calender year incollaberation with Saudi-HI and the MoH.

Hearing screening for newborns before they leave the hospital has proven to be of great importance. Without such programs, the average age of hearing loss identification is between 12-36 months or ever later in some cases.

When hearing loss is detected late, language development is already delayed. Children are more likely to perform below their grade level, and suffer educational, social and emotional difficulties. These consequences are in sharp contrast to those for children who are identified early, receive early intervention, and then are found to function at the level of their peers by the time they enter school.

Participating hospitals in Riyadh:

1-    Riyadh Medical Complex ( RMC) .

2-    Al-Yamama hospital.

The hearing screening protocol:

The protocol used states that every Saudi newborn is to be screened before discharge. In the event that one or both of the newborn's ears does not pass the screening test, or if the newborn is at risk of developing progressive or late on-set hearing loss, then that newborn is to be referred for ABR testing no later than 3 months after screening.

The equipment used is the GSI AudioScreener. 2 screeners are used in each hospital. The screening can detect bilateral or unilateral hearing loss in the range between 2000 to 6000 Hz testing 5 frequencies. The newborn must pass 4 out of 5 frequencies screened in each ear.

The screening of newborns and infants involves use of otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) which are non-invasive objective physiologic measures.

Note: Otoacoustic emissions are inaudible sounds from the cochlea when audible sound stimulates the cochlea. The outer hair cells of the cochlea vibrate, and the vibration produces an inaudible sound that echoes back into the middle ear. This sound can be measured with a small probe inserted into the ear canal. Persons with normal hearing produce emissions. Those with hearing loss greater than 25-30 dB do not. OAEs can detect blockage in the outer ear canal, middle ear fluid, and damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea.

The newborns' demographic information, screening results and risk factors are documented in a form and then inputted in a computerized database.

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