One in every 496 newborn babies screened in the country is found to have a hearing impairment, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said, adding that 423 babies have been diagnosed with hearing impairment since March 15 last year, the first day of the extension of a subsidy to cover hearing tests for newborns under three months of age.
The infant hearing screening program is fully subsidized by the government with the health and welfare surcharge levied on tobacco products since March last year, the administration said, adding that as of March 14, a total of 210,608 newborns have received hearing test, amounting to a screening rate of 87.5 percent of all babies.
The screening results showed that one in every 496 infants has some degree of hearing loss, the HPA said.
The babies found with hearing impairments have since been referred to hearing rehabilitation centers for subsequent treatment and follow-up services.
Kinmen County has the highest newborn hearing screening rate with 95.5 percent, while Tainan, Hsinchu, Nantou County, Taipei City and Lienchiang County have a screening rate surpassing 90 percent, according to the agency.
However, 12.3 percent of the newborns had failed to go through hearing screening, said the administration, urging parents to have their newborn babies take a hearing test within three months after birth so that early intervention can be done if needed.
Studies have shown that babies identified with mild, moderate or severe hearing loss before they are three months old are able to develop language skills on a par with their unimpaired peers if they start wearing hearing aids and receive auditory-verbal therapy before six months of age, which would allow the former to go to a regular school, the agency said.
A cost-effective analysis commissioned by the health agency shows that the newborn hearing screening can effectively reduce the overall economic cost, as every baby with hearing loss screened can help save an economic cost of an average of NT$210,000 (US$7,088) in their lifetime.