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Hawke’s Bay newborns to benefit from Lions appeal

3 August 2005

Hawke’s Bay newborns to benefit from Lions appeal

During the first two weeks of August Lions volunteers will be out and about in Hawke’s Bay with their annual service for children appeal.

Says Dianne Lawlor, convenor of the appeal committee “This year we are raising $70,000 to provide much needed newborn baby portable hearing screening equipment. At present there is no easy or convenient way to test for hearing deficiencies in newborns, the DHB has the people and skills but not the equipment. We aim to change that.”

Russell Wills, community paediatrician Hawke’s Bay District Health Board says “We are extremely grateful to Lions for recognising this need and taking up the fundraising challenge. We estimate that every year around seven babies are being born in Hawke’s Bay with hearing difficulties which will affect their ability to talk and learn. This equipment will enable us to screen every baby born and take early remedial action.”

The appeal has already received some substantial private donations but there is still a long way to go, says Dianne “There are many people out in the community who have experienced the impact a hearing disability has on individuals and families and who have immediately and generously responded to our call. We are confident that over the coming weeks we will reach our target.”

Street appeals will be held on Thursday 11th and Saturday 13th August, people can also lodge donations at any branch of the ANZ Bank.


Frequently asked questions:

How many babies will be screened?
Around 2100 babies every year (based on current birth rate data). Initially babies born at Hawke’s Bay Hospital Soldiers Memorial and Napier Health Centre will be screened, with the programmes extending to Wairoa and Waipukurau at a later date.

How many babies are born with significant hearing impairment?
Around 6-7 babies a year in Hawke’s Bay are not diagnosed at birth with hearing impairment which will affect their ability to speak and interact with others.

How does this rate compare with other conditions which are screened for at birth?
The incidence of “permanent sensorineural hearing loss” in New Zealand is considerably higher than other medical conditions routinely screened for within the first five days of birth:

Glactosenia 2 per 100,000 births
Phenylketonurea 10 per 100,000 births
Hypothyroidism 25 per 100,000 births
Cystic Fibrosis 50 per 100,000 births
Hearing Loss 300 per 100,000 births

What happens when a baby is diagnosed with hearing loss?
Hearing aids can be fitted as early as three months of age, cochlear implants are surgically implanted in New Zealand from ten months of age, and grommets can be inserted in babies, with some conditions, by six months of age.

What will the money raised be used for?
To purchase the specialised equipment needed, the DHB already has the staff with the required skills.

The equipment required is:

- An automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) unit, which assesses the function of the hearing nerves in the inner ear and the nerve pathways going to the brain. This equipment doesn’t need the baby to be awake or co-operating so is very useful for babies in the special care baby unit. One unit costs around $24,000

- Two units which measure the low level sounds (otoacoustic emissions, OAE) created by the cochlea or inner ear, which can be measured in the external ear canal. These will provide a quick, effective and valid method of identifying infants with sensorineural (inner ear or permanent) hearing loss. Two units cost around $42,000.

- Computer with software to record and sort the data $2,500.

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