SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
BUTLER, I R T; CERONIO, D; SWART, T and JOUBERT, G. Age of diagnosis of congenital hearing loss: Private v. public healthcare sector. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2015, vol.105, n.11, pp.927-929. ISSN 2078-5135. http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/SAMJ.2015.V105I11.9576.
BACKGROUND: The age of diagnosis of congenital hearing loss is one of the most important determinants of communication outcome. A previous study by the lead author had evaluated the performance of the public health services in Bloemfontein, South Africa (SA), in this regard. This study aimed to examine whether the private health services in the same city were any better. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether the age of diagnosis of congenital hearing loss (CHL) in children seen in the private healthcare sector in Bloemfontein, Free State Province, SA, was lower than that in the public healthcare system in the same city. METHODS: A comparative study design was utilised and a retrospective database review conducted. Data obtained from this study in the private healthcare sector were compared with data from a previous study in the public healthcare sector using the same study design. RESULTS: Forty-eight children aged <6 years with disabling hearing impairment (DHI) were identified in the private healthcare sector during the study period; 33/47 (70.2%) did not undergo hearing screening at birth. The median age of diagnosis of DHI in the private healthcare sector was 2.24 years, and this was statistically significantly lower than the median age of diagnosis of 3.71 years in the public healthcare sector (p<0.0001; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.99 - 2.0). The median age of diagnosis of CHL in the private healthcare sector was 3.01 years in children who were not screened at birth, and 1.25 years in those who were screened at birth. This difference was statistically significant (p<0.01; 95% CI 0.72 - 2.47). We also compared the median age of diagnosis of CHL in children from the private healthcare sector who were not screened at birth (median 3.01 years) with that in children in the public healthcare sector (median 3.71 years). This difference was statistically significant (p<0.01; 95% CI 0.41 - 1.56). CONCLUSIONS: Children in the Free State are diagnosed with CHL at a younger age in the private healthcare sector than in the public healthcare sector. With the social and economic benefits of early intervention in cases of DHI well established internationally, SA healthcare providers in both the public and private sectors need to develop screening, diagnostic and (re)habilitation services for children with hearing impairment.