OTTAWA, Jan. 18, 2016 /CNW/ - Canadian audiologists are calling on Health Minister Jane Philpott and her provincial and territorial counterparts to address the urgent need for improved early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) programs.
A newly-published progress report from the Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force (CIHTF) reveals that many provinces and territories still have inadequate EHDI programs. The task force, which is a collaboration between the Canadian Academy of Audiology (CAA) and Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC), is urging federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health to discuss the need for improved child hearing health programs at their joint meeting later this week.
"We are disappointed that many provincial and territorial EHDI programs haven't made significant progress since the release of the initial EHDI Report Card nearly two years ago," says Dr. Chantal Kealey, AuD, SAC Director of Audiology and Communication Health Assistants and CIHTF member. "We acknowledge that some regions have moved forward, but overall the rate of improvement has been too slow. We are also frustrated to learn about ongoing funding restrictions, staffing issues and a lack of government commitment. We need to do better."
The progress report is a status update on the EHDI Report Card, which the task force released in 2014. The report card graded provinces and territories based on the percentage of babies screened for hearing loss and the overall quality of EHDI programs in each region.
A comprehensive EHDI program includes an initial newborn hearing screening test, as well as timely diagnosis and access to appropriate intervention services.
"The ability to communicate is critical to a child's overall brain development," explains Dr. Steve Aiken, PhD, associate professor of audiology, surgery, psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University and Chair of the CIHTF. "If hearing loss is undiagnosed and untreated, especially during those early years of a child's life, it can result in long-term linguistic, cognitive, academic, social and emotional difficulties."
Along with today's progress report, the CIHTF has also released a new position statement, which advocates for the implementation of well-integrated and culturally-sensitive EHDI programs across Canada.
"It's 2016," says Dr. Kealey. "It is unacceptable that a child born in one region has access to proper hearing screening and intervention services while a child born in a different region does not. We want the federal government to take a leadership role on this issue and we need provinces and territories to work together. The upcoming federal, provincial and territorial health ministers' meeting is a perfect opportunity for governments to share information and make strong commitments. It's time to make children's hearing health a priority."
The Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force is a national group of leaders and experts in matters related to early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI), formed to promote, support and advocate for comprehensive universal EHDI programs in all Canadian provinces and territories. The group is a joint effort of Speech-Language and Audiology Canada and the Canadian Academy of Audiology. www.InfantHearingCanada.ca
SOURCE Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force
For further information: Andrew Stewart, SAC Public Affairs Associate, Email: [email protected], Telephone: 613.233.8906