Mapping the Social Determinants of Infant Hearing Health Care in Canada

Click here for French translation
Grant award: $98,396.90

Principal Investigator:
Name: Marlene Bagatto, AuD, PhD 
Institution: Western University

Name: Maxwell Smith, PhD 
Institution: Western University

Name: Jacob Shelley, SJD 
Institution: Western University

Name: Mehmet A. Begen, PhD 
Institution: Western University

One to three in 1000 newborns have lasting hearing loss. Not knowing about it early enough has lifelong consequences for language, literacy, cognitive, and social development. Fortunately, audiologists can identify and manage hearing loss within the first weeks of life using science-based clinical protocols, technology, and guidelines. As a result, infants born with hearing loss will develop similar to their normal hearing peers. The bad news is that Canada does not have a national infant hearing health strategy to respond to newborn hearing loss.
Without this, there is no commitment to work with children and their families, provinces/territories, and decision-makers to improve the health and well-being of Canadian infants. Only 7 out of 13 provinces/territories have infant hearing health programs, meaning infants born with hearing loss in specific postal code regions will experience delayed development. For decades, we have known about this Canadian health care inequity. We will address this by asking: 1) What are the conditions that contribute to this health care injustice in different provinces/territories? and 2) At what cost to Canadians does this inequity present?
We have shared two report cards (2014, 2019) with politicians at every level and little has changed. Knowing the social reasons and economic impacts of the disparities in infant hearing health care will clarify why and how Canada needs to shift. Findings will be shared with provincial/territorial health systems to guide practice and policy implementation, with a goal to reducing and eventually eliminating the current injustice faced by infants with hearing loss.