Newborn hearing screening has become an increasingly important element of neonatal care in developed countries whilst only a few fragmented screening programmes are evident in developing countries. The numerous socio-economic, cultural and healthcare barriers in developing contexts do not, however, negate or diminish the need to ensure optimal outcomes for infants with hearing loss through early identification and intervention programmes. South Africa has taken a first step toward addressing this need by publishing a Year 2002 Hearing Screening Position Statement that was produced by the Professional Board for Speech, Language and Hearing Professions of the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Interim recommendations are made toward universal newborn hearing screening programmes in three contexts: well-baby nurseries,; neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) clinics through their 6-week immunisation programmes. Although these clinics constitute an unfamiliar hearing screening context, they are essential platforms toward widespread screening of the majority of infants in South Africa. An urgent need therefore exists to ascertain the feasibility of hearing screening programmes at MCH 6-week immunisation clinics in order to guide the future implementation of widespread hearing screening services in South Africa. To attend to this need, an exploratory descriptive design that jointly implements quantitative and qualitative methods in a dominant-less-dominant model of triangulation was utilised to critically describe a screening programme conducted at two MCH clinics in Hammanskraal (a developing, peri-urban South African community). The quantitative methods included a structured interview to compile biographical and risk information; high frequency immittance measurements; hearing screening with OAE and AABR according to specified protocols, and diagnostic assessment of referred infants. The qualitative methods included field notes and critical reflections describing clinics as screening contexts and elucidating interactional processes involved in sustaining programmes. A total number of 510 infant-caregiver pairs were enrolled as subjects during the five-month research period. Results indicate that clinics not only provide a suitable context, but also the possibility of effective collaborations toward facilitating effective initial infant hearing screening programmes. The caregivers and infants who attended the clinics demonstrated significant degrees of socio-economic deprivation. They also reported an increased incidence of risk indicators exacerbating the population’s risk for congenital hearing loss, poor participation in the hearing screening/follow-up process, and subsequent poor involvement in a family-centred early intervention process for infants identified with hearing loss. The screening protocol effectively classified infants into risk categories for hearing loss and established useful norms for high frequency immittance in infants. The efficiency of the programme was acceptable considering the short period of implementation, but inefficient coverage with the AABR and poor follow-up return rates were obtained at the clinics. Despite prevailing barriers, the MCH 6-week immunisation clinics showed promise as platforms for widespread hearing screening programmes for infants in South Africa. The clinical implications and recommendations that emerged from the research conducted in this study were compiled and presented in the form of a preliminary service delivery model for infant hearing screening at MCH clinics.
Thesis (DPhil (Communication Pathology))--University of Pretoria, 2004.