Alyson was 15 months old when she was finally given a hearing test at the hospital. “His language delay would have been less if his deafness had been diagnosed earlier,” said his mother, Sarah-Pier Blackburn.
Alongside parents of children with deafness, the Order of Orthophonists and Audiologists of Quebec (OOAQ) and the Quebec Association for Children with Hearing Problems (AQEPA) denounce in an open letter the fact that 13 years after the announcement of the Québec Newborn Hearing Screening Program, only 53% of babies are tested at birth. This rate is confirmed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
This is all the more incomprehensible, says Paul-André Gallant, president of the Order of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, “because the test only takes five minutes, that it is done by a nurse or nursing assistant and that the apparatus for doing this is very inexpensive. In fact, several of the devices are available and sleeping in closets.”
“We find it hard to understand such slowness, especially since hearing loss is the second most common disorder with visual impairment in children under five. Each year, four to six out of every thousand babies are born with hearing loss,” the letter reads.
Julie St-Hilaire also does not understand why her children were not tested at birth. “I had asked if it was necessary to take a test, as the paternal grandmother had profound deafness, but as it was due to a fall, I was told that it was not necessary. »
Around the age of a year and a half, noticing that her son did not react when called, she consulted a family doctor, then a pediatrician.
After several months of “jumping through” an audiological evaluation could finally be done and a diagnosis of moderate to moderately severe deafness was finally made. Her son was already two and a half years old.
“For my daughter Chloé, born in 2011, it was still not possible to do a birth screening.
“Having been through this whole journey with my son, I knew that we had to go beyond the assumptions of the doctors who ruled out deafness, and the obstacles of the system. […] I did not let myself be told no. »
The OOAQ and AQEPA observe that even today, several regions are not covered and that parents from the Outaouais go to Ontario to have their children tested or end up going to the private sector.
For the children in question, the stakes are not low, write the signatories of the letter.
A child who has a deafness, whether mild or severe, risks “significant consequences on his school career, his social life, his personal development”.
Lambert Drainville, press officer for Lionel Carmant, Minister Delegate for Health and Social Services, indicates that “nearly 8,000 additional newborns will have access to hearing screening at birth” over the next year.
“We are currently continuing the implementation work in several regions in order to offer [screening] to all newborns. All babies with one or more risk factors for deafness are recommended for screening. »