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About 1 in 1000 children are born each year with hearing impairment sufficiently severe to compromise speech and language development and communication. There has been much work in recent years to reduce the age of diagnosis and intervention for these children. The paper by Pimperton et al,1 provides important evidence to support the observations of those working clinically with these children, that early identification and habilitation of significant hearing impairment in children pays dividends in terms of education. The cohort of children on whom this paper is based was identified by universal newborn hearing screening before the establishment of NHSP, the national newborn hearing screening programme. The same cohort was studied earlier at an average age of 7.9 years2 when significant benefit in language development was shown in those diagnosed before 9 months of age compared with those identified when older than 9 months. The particular value of this paper is that it has looked at performance in the second decade as well as the first, and there is a paucity of work in this age group. Pimperton et al have highlighted the value of early diagnosis and intervention in establishing good language skills, which underpin later reading comprehension.
Management of deafness in children has seen a significant change in the last 15 years. Prior to newborn hearing screening, the average age of diagnosis of deafness severe enough to compromise speech and language development (moderate-to-profound deafness bilaterally) was 26 months, …