The Ontario Infant Hearing Program (IHP) provides universal newborn hearing screening in hospital or community settings to identify newborns with permanent hearing loss (PHL) and support their language development so they will be ready to start school.
The IHP also offers monitoring for children who are at increased risk of developing hearing loss, in the following ways:
- Babies with certain risks for PHL recognized at the time of hearing screening are offered monitoring for hearing loss through the IHP.
- All babies who have hearing screening are offered risk factor screening for PHL using the sample already collected by the hospital or midwife for routine newborn screening (the heel prick test).
- This screening is performed by Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO) and specifically looks for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and some common genetic risk factors for PHL.
- Babies with these risk factors have a higher chance of having PHL at birth or of developing it in early childhood and, when found through screening, can be connected with the appropriate audiology and medical follow-up.
Babies and children who are identified with hearing loss as early as possible can have access to support and services sooner and have better outcomes.
Risk factor screening for PHL started in Ontario for babies born on or after July 29, 2019. This screening is offered to parents/guardians at the time the infant hearing screening is done, or when the hearing screening appointment is booked.
From May 2018 until July 29, 2019, screening for CMV infection was offered for babies who had a refer result to an audiologist because they did not pass their hearing screening or because a strong risk factor for PHL was recognized at birth. Babies who screen positive for CMV on this targeted screen are referred directly to an Infectious Diseases Clinic for further evaluation.