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Lions appeal raises over $89,000

23 February 2006

Lions appeal raises over $89,000 for Hawke’s Bay newborns

For the past six months the Lions service for children appeal committee has been out and about calling on the public, businesses and private benefactors to provide funds for much needed newborn baby portable hearing screening equipment.

And says Dianne Lawlor, convenor of the appeal committee “Our community has yet again responded brilliantly to the challenge and enabled us to present a cheque to Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to cover the cost of purchasing equipment to enable screening of all children born from Wairoa to Central Hawke’s Bay.”

From the beginning of March the DHB will be able to easily and conveniently test for hearing deficiencies in newborns. Russell Wills, community paediatrician for the 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 that will affect their ability to talk and learn. This equipment will enable us to screen every baby born and take early remedial action.”

And comments Chris Clarke, HBDHB chief executive “I am humbled by the compassion of Hawke’s Bay people who do not hesitate to support the most vulnerable in our community. Thank you Lions and all those who gave so generously.”

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 seven babies a year are born with significant hearing loss that affects their ability to speak and interact with others. Current testing picks up two of these, so we are currently missing around five babies a year.

How does this rate compare with other conditions that 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, e.g.:

Glactosaemia 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?

The money will be used 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.

- 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.

- Computer with software to record and sort the data.


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