The impact of universal newborn hearing screening on long-term literacy outcomes: a prospective cohort study

Hannah Pimperton, Hazel Blythe, Jana Kreppner, Merle Mahon, Janet Peacock, Jim Stevenson, Maria Terlektsi, Sarah Worsfold, Ho Ming Yuen, Colin Kennedy

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Objective: To determine whether the benefits of universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) seen at age 8 years persist through the second decade.

Design: Prospective cohort study of a population sample of children with permanent childhood hearing impairment (PCHI) followed up for 17 years since birth in periods with (or without) UNHS.

Setting: Birth cohort of 100 000 in southern England.

Participants: 114 teenagers aged 13–19 years, 76 with PCHI and 38 with normal hearing. All had previously their reading assessed aged 6–10 years.

Interventions: Birth in periods with and without UNHS; confirmation of PCHI before and after age 9 months.

Main outcome measure: Reading comprehension ability. Regression modelling took account of severity of hearing loss, non-verbal ability, maternal education and main language.

Results: Confirmation of PCHI by age 9 months was associated with significantly higher mean z-scores for reading comprehension (adjusted mean difference 1.17, 95% CI 0.36 to 1.97) although birth during periods with UNHS was not (adjusted mean difference 0.15, 95% CI −0.75 to 1.06). The gap between the reading comprehension z-scores of teenagers with early compared with late confirmed PCHI had widened at an adjusted mean rate of 0.06 per year (95% CI −0.02 to 0.13) during the 9.2-year mean interval since the previous assessment.

Conclusions: The benefit to reading comprehension of confirmation of PCHI by age 9 months increases during the teenage years. This strengthens the case for UNHS programmes that lead to early confirmation of permanent hearing loss.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2014


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