Provincewide diagnostic now in Amherst
© Eric Sparling – Amherst Daily News.
Tim Lushington, an audiologist, prepares Maxim for a hearing test, while mother Emma looks on, and maternity nurse Karen Crewe stands by to read the result.
AMHERST – Emma Brown knows her newborn, Maxim, needs to see the audiologist at his office in the next couple of weeks. She knows this because her son, born May 7, was the first baby tested at Cumberland Health Care Centre as part of a province-wide plan to check hearing in newborns before they leave the hospital for the first time.
“It’s a little, electronic device,” said Tim Lushington, the Amherst-based audiologist at the local branch of the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres.
A little device that can make a big impact, according to the specialist. Getting hearing aids fitted or even cochlear implants before the age of six months can make a huge difference to development, he said, and help prevent speech or language issues or learning delays.
“Ultimately it’s left up to the parents,” he said.
Parents decide what actions will be taken, according to Lushington, but testing provides parents with the information they need to make an informed decision.
“This was the last place to go fully (to universal screening),” said Lushington.
Other birthing centres have higher numbers of births annually. Maternity nurse Karen Crewe, one of two nurses trained to use the machine (they’ll be teaching colleagues, too), said the Amherst hospital averages about 200 births per year. Bridgewater and Amherst are the only two sites where nurses will be conducting the tests.
The test was demonstrated on baby Maxim. His right ear received a “pass” before he left the hospital, but his left ear got a “refer” rating at that time, indicating further investigation was warranted. At the retest conducted Tuesday, he again received a refer result. Lushington said the infant would be in to see him at his off-site clinic, where further diagnostics could be conducted, as soon as possible.
The handheld piece of equipment sends two sounds into the ear and evaluates the echo it receives back. The test is most easily conducted with a sleeping infant and isn’t done in the first 24-hours after being born to give the ears time to clear.