Republic Act 9709 or the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 2009 gives hope in the early prevention of the development of congenital hearing disabilities in newborn babies in the Philippines.
In the research forum on hearing impairment, “Understanding the Silent World of the Hearing Impaired,” organized by the Metro Manila Health Research and Development Consortium (MMHRDC) and the Philippine Council for Health Research Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD – DOST), held at De La Salle University, Manila on November 18, 2011, the importance of having newborns screened for risks of developing hearing disabilities because of congenital anomalies was addressed. Dr Charlotte Chiong, Assistant Director for the Philippine National Ear Institute and a strong advocate of the law, spoke on the importance of the implementation of RA 9709.
“As hearing impairment is an invisible disability, majority of the people do not fully understand the implications of hearing loss and its consequences on the deaf person,” Dr. Chiong said. “For those parents who are not fully aware of such early detection and intervention programs, most of the time they settle and give up on their child’s hearing disability altogether.”
RA 9709, which was signed and approved by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on August 12, 2009, mandates that every newborn infant in the country undergo the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) before they reach their third month of age. The law compels parents, health practitioners and medical institutions to provide the necessary procedures to detect risks of developing congenital hearing loss in children in the future. Infants who were born in hospitals should be screened before they are discharged; while newborn babies who were born at home should be screened before the third month after birth.
According to Dr. Chiong, “Hearing impairment poses a great deal of consequences that mainly affects the individual’s communicative and linguistic skills, as well as social and educational competencies. One of the goals of UNHS is to prevent these repercussions through early identification and intervention by allowing the child to develop normal speech and have an improved quality of life alongside their hearing peers.”
In the Philippines about 8 babies are born deaf every day while three babies are born with hearing impairment every three hours. Through the RA, every newborn baby in the country gains access to all the necessary medical screening as well as medical intervention for congenital hearing defects.
“With this law, our children are assured of medical interventions that will keep them from falling victims to otherwise preventable hearing loss,” said Dr. Chiong. (Richmond Acosta)