Lions Club supports infant hearing program

The Northwestern Health Unit’s infant hearing program received a $35,000 donation from the Lions Club on Monday to help buy new screening equipment.
The Lions 5M International Hearing Foundation presented the cheque to the health unit to purchase seven tympanometers for the Kenora-Rainy River district.
The new machine is a hand-held device that will screen babies and pre-school children for middle ear infections.
The tympanometers are the latest addition to the infant hearing program launched by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care last January.
At that time, the health unit began using two devices—an Automated Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emissions (DPOAE) instrumentation and the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR).
The new machines will be used in conjunction with the other two to help provide more precise diagnoses at a younger age.
Specifically, the machine detects fluid in the middle ear that can interfere with hearing.
“We can then monitor them at home instead of sending them to an audiologist,” said Debbie Cousineau, hearing co-ordinator for the Northwestern Health Unit.
Since last January, the health unit has screened 750 babies, with one percent of those requiring referrals to an audiologist.
“Typically, hearing loss is recognized at about three years of age,” Cousineau noted.
“If we can identify a baby [with hearing defects] at four months of age, by age four, they’re on the same level as their peers,” she added.
Early detection means early intervention, including using hearing aids or teaching children sign language—depending on the severity of the hearing loss.
“In terms of child development, a few dollars spent when children are very young saves society millions of dollars later on because you can do so much with young children,” said local MPP and NDP leader Howard Hampton, who was on hand for the cheque presentation.
Hampton added the attention the Lions Club has drawn to the need for equipment to help screen for hearing loss has been beneficial in other ways.
“The Lions pushed the governments to move on this front,” he explained. “I want to commend the Lions Club for not just a good fundraising strategy, but a great political strategy, as well.”
“The Lions Club looked at the need and answered it, and we appreciate it very much,” echoed Dr. Pete Sarsfield, medical officer of health for the health unit, who also attended the presentation.
The High Risk Monitor Program is one of the more important uses for the new equipment, Cousineau said.
Children who are considered high-risk are those born prematurely, those with health problems after birth, and those with a family history of hearing loss in children.
“This is where the equipment will be most useful,” she stressed.
Cousineau said the $35,000 would buy seven tympanometers for Fort Frances, Dryden, Kenora, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Atikokan, and Rainy River/Emo.
“Hopefully, we’ll be up and running by January,” she added.