Why Egypt’s newborn hearing screening initiative is important for the rest of the world

Egypt’s Newborn Hearing Screening Initiative

In September 2019, Egyptian President Al-Sisi and his Minister of Health and Population, Hala Zayed, launched an initiative to get otoacoustic hearing screening to newborns across Egypt. Over one million children have been tested within the first year, according to EgyptToday.com. With the 100 Million Scheme being rolled out across Africa, many more will follow. The hearing screening can’t come quickly enough, as an average of 130,000 Egyptian newborns have hearing loss.

The 100 Million Scheme covers all kinds of health screenings, from newborn hearing tests to breast cancer. With massive plans to improve Africa’s status as a continent, the 100 Million Scheme is just one part of a colossal effort to make Africa a world superpower by 2063. The move is known as the African Union Agenda 2063. The World Health Organization is backing the health initiative.

Hearing Screening for Babies

The earlier you catch hearing loss or deafness, the less severe the impact on the child’s development. Babies rely heavily on their hearing to learn speech and language. Understanding how words and letters sound can be crucial in learning to read and write. There’s also a developmental window when it comes to learning how to talk.

According to a study published in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Deaf children can have a much harder time with literacy, due to not having phonetics to learn from. As a result, their general education can lag. People who acquire deafness later in life have already obtained a voice imprint, or the memory of what words sound like, according to the National Institute of Health. This makes it easier for them to learn to read.

In the U.S., hearing screening guidelines state that babies should have hearing tests before one month old. Those that fail need a full hearing test before three months of age. Children with hearing loss or deafness do much better if they’re supported early on so that they can obtain essential literacy and communication skills. The more awareness you have of your child’s condition, the better you’re able to support them.

Read more: Our journey after a failed newborn hearing screening 

Deafness and Hearing Loss in Egypt

With five percent of Egypt’s population having hearing loss, deafness and hearing loss are just as much of an issue in Egypt as they are in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Being born with a hearing loss in developing countries means having a distinct disadvantage, especially if there isn’t adequate literacy for education. However, there is support available. Egypt is rapidly becoming a supportive country to live in for the deaf community. One example is the Egypt School for the Deaf offering classes in Egyptian Sign Language to parents of deaf children.

Egypt also has its own sign language known as Egyptian Sign Language or ESL. There isn’t much documentation about its history or usage. It is one of several Arabic sign languages. There is no united Arabic sign language. All attempts to implement such a language failed, as it means incorporating an entirely new sign language among users of existing ones. If you fancy giving ESL a go, check out SignPuddle, a dictionary of ESL signs.

Read more: Sign languages around the world