BACKGROUND: The introduction of Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) programs has drastically contributed to the early diagnosis of hearing loss in children, allowing prompt intervention with significant results on speech and language development in affected children. UNHS in the Lazio region has been initially deliberated in 2012; however, the program has been performed on a universal basis only from 2015. The aim of this retrospective study is to present and discuss the preliminary results of the UNHS program in the Lazio region for
METHODS: Data from screening facilities in the Lazio region for year 2016 were retrospectively analyzed. Data for Level I centers were supplied by the Lazio regional offices; data for Level II and III centers were provided by units that participated to the study.the year 2016, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the program.
RESULTS: During 2016, a total of 44,805 babies were born in the Lazio region. First stage screening was performed on 41,821 children in 37 different birth centers, with a coverage rate of 93.3%. Of these, 38.977 (93.2%) obtained a "pass" response; children with a "refer" result in at least one ear were 2844 (6.8%). Data from Level II facilities are incomplete due to missing reporting, one of the key issues in Lazio UNHS. Third stage evaluation was performed on 365 children in the three level III centers of the region, allowing identification of 70 children with unilateral (40%) or bilateral (60%) hearing loss, with a prevalence of 1.6/1000.
CONCLUSIONS: The analysis of 2016 UNHS in the Lazio region allowed identification of several strengths and weaknesses of the initial phase of the program. The strengths include a correct spread and monitoring of UNHS among Level I facilities, with an adequate coverage rate, and the proper execution of audiological monitoring and diagnosis among Level III facilities. Weakness, instead, mainly consisted in lack of an efficient and automated central process for collecting, monitoring and reporting of data and information.