A computerised child health register was used to study the coverage, referral rate, and false positive rate of the eight month hearing distraction test in a cohort of 1990 births to residents of one district during an eight month period. Coverage by the age of 9 months was under 60% and varied with ethnic group and immunisation record. The true problem rate among those referred was 48%. None of the three children in the cohort who had a sensorineural hearing loss was picked up by screening, although it did identify children with conductive loss. The findings question the value of the distraction test as currently used, and underline the usefulness of computerisation, even if limited to child registration, in the evaluation of screening tests.
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