Objective: A model is proposed for universal neonatal hearing screening.
Methods: The screening model is two-staged because it consists of a first test and, in case of failure (1.4% of the subjects), of a retest 3 weeks later. It is bipodal because it involves both the hospital audiologic department and a central Well Baby Organization. The idea is to have a maximal number of newborns tested at the maternity by trained audiologists and to have the Well Baby Organization trace and chase the missing subjects. The model has been evaluated during 1 calendar year (1999) in a maternity with 2,012 newborns.
Result: The result is a coverage of 99.3%. Most newborns (97.3%) were tested at the maternity ward with a total time investment of less than 15 minutes per child. The actual test time is 2 minutes, 12 seconds (median value). The Well Baby Organization keeps track of all the results and has to test no more than 2% of the newborns. Sensitivity and specificity were not the primary outcomes of this evaluation, but they were similar to those of a previous study evaluating the screen procedure on a larger scale, giving a sensitivity of approximately 100% and a false alarm rate of 1/1,000.
Conclusion: These figures demonstrate that universal neonatal hearing screening is feasible within the existing health care structure, with unprecedented coverage, sensitivity, and specificity.