Objective: To determine the feasibility and effectiveness of well-infant nursery hearing screening programme for the early identification of hearing impairment, based on transient evoked otoacoustic emission (TEOAE) with a high "screen sensitivity" reducing the number of more expensive secondary level exams.
Methods: The newborns were screened by non-specialist health workers in well babies nursery at the twentieth day of life for 6 years consecutive. Based on PASS/FAIL criteria and presence/absence of audiological risk factors the newborns were divided into four groups each one with its personal step programme: G1 - PASS without risk factor, free to go home; G2 - PASS with risk factor, retest at the age of 7 months; G3 - FAIL without risk factor, re-screening after 2 weeks for a maximum of four times before audiology assessment; G4 - FAIL with risk factor, retest after 2 weeks.
Results: The coverage rate increased progressively from 89.8% to 92%. The referral rate was 1.51% after second stage with a specificity value of 98.78%. The four-stage screening performed for G3 reduced the numbers of global audiology assessment to 0.91% with a final global specificity of 99.4 ± 0.4%.
Conclusion: Less than 1% of infants underwent audiological assessment; the false positives resulted 0.62% with hearing loss global incidence of 2.95/1000 and a mean age of confirmation of 3.5 months of age. It is reasonable to think that this screening programme could be implement to overall 42 Western Sicily birth centres within few years.
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