Background: This systematic review examined the outcomes (age of identification and intervention, developmental outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and adverse effects on parents) of universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) for children with permanent congenital hearing loss (PCHL).
Materials and methods: Multiple electronic databases were interrogated in March and April 2020 with further reports identified from article citations and unpublished literature. UNHS reports in English with comparisons of outcomes of infants who were not screened, and infants identified through other hearing screening programs.
Results: 30 eligible reports from 14 populations with 7,325,138 infants screened through UNHS from 1616 non-duplicate references were included. UNHS results in a lower age of identification, amplification, and the initiation of early intervention services and better language/literacy development. Better speech perception/production were shown in younger, but not in older, children with early identification after UNHS. No significant findings were found for behavior problems and quality of life. UNHS was found to be cost-effective in terms of savings to society. In addition, no significant parental harm was noted as a result of UNHS.
Conclusions: In highly developed countries, significantly better outcomes were found for children identified early through UNHS programs. Early language development predicts later literacy and language development.
Keywords: childhood hearing loss; early identification; early intervention; intervention outcomes; newborn hearing screening; permanent childhood hearing loss; universal hearing screening.