Early detection of infant hearing issues exceeds target

CYBERJAYA: A total of 987 out of 253,822 infants screened under the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) programme in the country in 2023 were diagnosed with hearing problems, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

He said the Health Ministry (MOH) places great importance on the early detection of hearing problems and the UNHS programme, which involves hearing screening for newborns, has been a key performance indicator (KPI) for the Health Minister’s first 100 days.

“Alhamdulillah, thanks to the dedication and cooperation of all parties, from Dec 13, 2023, to March 21, 2024, a total of 68,823 newborns, or 138% of the KPI target, have successfully undergone hearing screening before reaching 29 days old,” he said.

Dzulkefly said that through Budget 2024, RM130mil has been allocated to enhance disease prevention to ensure the well-being of Malaysian families remain intact.

“This allocation also includes the newborn hearing screening programme, which will be used to increase the coverage of infant screenings, allowing babies and children with hearing problems to be detected early,” he said.

He added that the ministry, as the Secretariat for the Medical Assistance Fund, will consider applications from Malaysian citizens, including government retirees or family members of civil servants, for the acquisition of hearing aids or cochlear implant surgeries to address the problem, Bernama reported.

He said the number of cochlear implants performed under the ministry’s Cochlear Implant Programme from 2019 to 2023 involved 272 units, costing about RM21mil.

“This effort provides children with hearing problems the opportunity to hear better and further empowers this group, especially in their learning,” he said.

Dzulkefly also urged everyone to break the stereotypes and stigma that exist in society towards individuals using hearing aids.

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