MORE than 57,000 babies have passed through the Basildon Hospital screening service which checks new-borns’ hearing since it started ten years ago.

Nationally, as many as two children in 1,000 are born with hearing problems and early diagnosis of hearing problems can make a huge difference to the way these children grown up.

Amanda Jones, a team leader in the department, said: “Before new-born hearing screening became a national programme, babies with significant hearing loss were not diagnosed properly until the age of 18 or even 24 months.

“By that time, they were very behind with speech and language, and that affected their development, education, socialisation, employment prospects – all their chances in life. The earlier in life a child gets a hearing aid, the better the outcome.”

Ms Jones said she and her colleagues noticed a real difference between youngsters who were diagnosed early and those who were not.

She explained: “Children who used to attend schools for the deaf are now more likely to be educated in mainstream schools with additional supp o r t – even those with significant hearing loss.”

Under the new-born hearing screening service, all babies are offered a test, usually on the maternity ward where theywere born.

Medics use hand-held equipment to examine a baby’s hearing, and if they are found to have a permanent hearing loss, they are seen by a specialist doctor.

When Alena Nemockova’s new born son, Finley, was referred to Basildon Hospital for a hearing screening test, she learned he suffered hearing loss because of a genetic condition.

Ms Nemockova said: “I didn’t feel worried because they said it was not uncommon and it might not mean anything when he failed at first.

“Then he had more sophisticated tests at Basildon and we were told he had a severe hearing loss in his right ear, and also hearing loss in his left ear.”

Ms Nemockova praised the service for finding the problem and also for its diligence in regularly checking Finley’s hearing to make sure it wasn’t deteriorating further.