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Half a million babies screened

The BC Early Hearing Program celebrated a true milestone last month – 500,000 babies across the province have been screened for hearing loss. Two B.C. families tell us what screening has meant to them.
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​Founded in 2005, the BC Early Hearing Program (BCEHP) has been steadily growing and developing over the years – just like the newborns it screens.

The program started screening babies in neonatal intensive care units in B.C. hospitals in 2006, then implemented screening as part of the Well Baby program in 2007. It rolled out its complete screening program for every baby born in the province in 2009. 2019 marks ten years of hearing screening and testing in British Columbia, and last month, the program celebrated screening its 500,000th baby at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.

“Early screenings have lots of benefits”
Daela-500k-family-web-version-1.jpgSimon Lolliot and Kayli Johnson welcomed their first baby, a daughter named Daela, on November 13. Little Daela happened to be the 500,000th baby screened by BCEHP, and mom and dad could not be happier. “We want the best for our daughter and know that early screenings have a whole host of benefits,” Simon says. “We’re really grateful and feel privileged to be a part of this milestone for infant health in B.C.”

(Pictured above: Simon, Kayli and baby Daela, with Kim Harrison, lead hearing screener with BCEHP.)

Kayli, a Vancouver Island native, knew that Daela’s hearing would be tested after birth, but wasn’t sure what the screening would be like. “I was pleasantly surprised by how quick it was,” she remembers. “It was non-invasive and we got the results right away.” 

Simon and Kayli are both professors at the University of British Columbia and like many new parents, did their fair share of research before their little girl came along. “We read that hearing develops in utero,” Kayli says. “So we decided to read the same three stories by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd to Daela every night up until she was born - I grew up on Vancouver Island surrounded by Roy Henry Vickers' art. During Daela's hearing screening, we had to turn her over to test her other ear, and she started to fuss. Simon started to recite one of the stories to her, and she calmed right down. So we’ve seen firsthand how powerful hearing is, even at the newborn stage.”    
Daela passed her hearing screening, and now the new family of three is settling in at home.

“Without early screening, kids would get missed”

Jessica Keith Wildeboer family photo.jpgJessica and Keith Wildeboer are the busy parents of five children, two of whom were identified with significant hearing loss as newborns by BCEHP. 

“Our first child, our daughter Chelsea, was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss,” Jessica shares. “She failed her newborn screening test in both ears, but we didn’t panic as the technician reassured us that this can sometimes happen due to fluid in a baby's ears. Over the next few weeks we noticed Chelsea startle to loud noises so we didn't think too much about the test. But at her follow-up screening we were told she needed a more in-depth hearing test called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) assessment. From there, her hearing loss was confirmed.” The same thing occurred with the Wildeboer’s third child, their son Levi. Thanks to BCEHP, both Chelsea and Levi were fitted for hearing aids and getting early language services by the time they were three months old.

(Pictured above, left to right: Levi, Chelsea, Jessica, Keith, Greyson, Lucas and Travis.)

“We’re really thankful for the early screening provided by the BC Early Hearing Program,” Jessica says. “Without it, kids would get missed and it’s more difficult for them to adjust and play catch-up later. As new parents, everything is already overwhelming, but the BCEHP was so helpful. They continued to guide us through the next steps and connected us with support services and resources.  We were able to meet other families and kids who are deaf/hard of hearing, and learn more about communication and language development.”

Chelsea Wildeboer hearing aid charms v.1.jpgChelsea is now 10 years old and Levi is six – and neither of them know a life without their hearing aids. “Wearing a hearing aid is a natural thing for them – they’re both very used to wearing them. Chelsea particularly enjoys choosing fun colours like pink or purple for her hearing aids, and she puts fun charms on them like jewelry,” Jessica laughs. “Both are well-adjusted and their language is great, age-appropriate and on track. They are doing well in school, academically and socially. We are really grateful for the positive start that BCEHP put us on.”

A collective effort

Diane Bremner, audiologist and director of BCEHP, is very proud of the progress BCEHP has made over the years. 

“It’s exciting and humbling to be a part of this journey and to have reached such a huge milestone,” she says. “Half a million babies screened! This success is a true testament to our whole team at PHSA and our Regional Health Authority partners. We couldn’t have done this without the collective efforts of our teams across the province and will continue to work together toward our next achievement – one million babies screened and beyond. Congratulations to everyone who works with the BC Early Hearing Program.”

Hear more from Jessica in an interview with Radio NL in Kamloops.

Hear more from Simon, Kayli and Diane in an interview with Fairchild TV.

The BC Early Hearing Program works towards achieving the best language outcomes for all young children in British Columbia. A province-wide screening program, BCEHP checks hearing for babies born in B.C. and provides integrated services from hearing screening to hearing testing as well as early language support following identification of hearing loss. For further information, visit http://www.phsa.ca/earlyhearing.

BC Early Hearing Program
 
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