More than ten years after its launch, the Québec Newborn Hearing Screening Program (PQDSN) has still not been implemented in the 86 hospitals and birth centers in Québec. Only 61% of newborn babies in Quebec currently have access to this test, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS).
The Quebec Association for Children with Hearing Problems (AQEPA) is asking the CISSSs and CIUSSSs to make the deployment of this program a priority. “The sooner we detect a child, the sooner we can set up a rehabilitation follow-up and equip the family to communicate with this child and avoid a lot of delays which will be much more complicated to catch up afterwards, even when school,” says AQEPA Executive Director Claire Moussel.
Parents discover their child’s deafness years later, which can have consequences on his language. Claire Moussel cites a recent example, that of a family whose second child benefited from the PQDSN. “A deafness has been identified,” she reports. The parents wondered about the older brother, who was two years old at the time. They did an evaluation and indeed, he too has deafness. »
According to the MSSS, 28 hospitals and birth centers have deployed the PQDSN so far. This is progress compared to 2021-2022: at the time, there were only about twenty of them, which represented approximately 53% of Quebec newborns.
The president of the Order of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists of Quebec, Paul-André Gallant, is delighted that the deployment is “moving forward”, but would like it to go faster. According to him, this simple test can be performed in a short time by a nursing assistant or other trained professional.
“We are very behind the other provinces, and for a long time,” says Mr. Gallant. He specifies that in Ontario, 94% of newborns benefited from this test in 2021. This percentage rose to 97% in British Columbia and 98% in New Brunswick.
In Quebec, the elected members of the National Assembly unanimously adopted, on May 11, 2021, a motion asking the government to set up the PQDSN “in all places of birth” in the province “by the end of the year 2021”. The MSSS now claims to be “confident of achieving the objective of covering 100% of newborns by the end of 2023”.
In an email, the MSSS explains that the deployment of the program was “slowed down” initially by “the need to set up an information and admissions management system”, then by the pandemic. He underlines the “efforts” made to “keep screening”, despite the health crisis.
The MSSS adds that all newborns with deafness risk factors are referred to an audiology service even if the PQDSN is not present in their establishment. “In addition, as part of the activities of the Act early program, children can also be identified if they presented a delay related to a deafness problem,” he writes.
Paul-André Gallant remains concerned. “Neonatal deafness, 90% of the time, is in children who have no parental history, no disease! »