Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hearing for kids

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As this marathon legislative session winds up, there are some obvious "wins" on the opposition side of the ledger. But one that will keep on giving, long after the fight over the hike to the PST is history, is the agreement to make newborn screening for hearing impairment universal in Manitoba.

The screening test, now available in a handful of regions in Manitoba, will be expanded to all five health authorities, including in Winnipeg, where most of the province's 16,000-plus births happen. The agreement results from a deal to end the session the Tories dragged out, which included adoption of Conservative Leanne Rowat's bill for mandatory hearing screening, an idea also championed by Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard.

Manitoba does not collect statistics on newborns with hearing loss, but the Tories say six in 1,000 Manitoba infants have some impairment. Newborns believed to be at risk are screened already, but the Manitoba Speech and Hearing Association notes that less than 50 per cent of babies born with hearing loss have such risk factors.

The screening test is quick, non-invasive and should give children with hearing loss a better start at life, including readiness for school -- mastery of language, sign or spoken, is a critical skill for learning. This is a good use of health resources.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2013 A14

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