Filipino researchers develop newborn screening device for early detection of hearing impairment

Supported by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD),   researchers from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman are developing a screening device to provide a low-cost hearing screening device for newborn children.

The project aims to make hearing screening accessible to (local government unit) LGU-operated hospitals/centers in rural and far-flung areas which usually have limited access in the already existing newborn hearing screening in cities.

The project entitled, “Increasing the Rates of Newborn Hearing Screening Through Biomedical Device Research and Development: Pre-Market Development of Locally Manufactured Automated Auditory Brainstem Response Device and Algorithm (HeLe Project),” led by Dr. Luis G. Sison of UP Diliman, is a continuation of the study conducted by the Philippine National Ear Institute and the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Institute of UP Diliman in collaboration with the University of California, which was funded through the Commission on Higher Education – Philippine California Advanced Research Institutes (CHED-PCARI) Project.

Started in September 2022, the HeLe project is now in its fourth quarter of implementation. Its scope involves modification of the hardware and software of the early prototype, functional testing (safety tests, design validations), and human pilot testing. 

So far, the project has successfully compiled and analyzed Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) waves from 1280 ears from the Philippines General Hospital (PGH) Ear Unit records, and successfully assessed the experimental hearing screening device’s capability to illustrate acoustic brainstem response in typically hearing adults.

PCHRD Executive Director Jaime Montoya commends the researchers for developing the device.

“This will serve as an indispensable tool as it will safeguard against the potential challenges that hearing impairment can pose in a child’s life. It is a beacon of hope for the next generations and for that, I thank our researchers for sharing their expertise for our fellow Filipinos,” Dr. Montoya said.

In the remaining months, the project team is planning to complete the development of the hardware and software design of the HeLe device system and proceed to clinical validation, data compilation and analysis of sample ABR waves. 

Upon its completion, the project is expected to develop a HeLe Device along with an ABR algorithm, which can contribute to improving the implementation of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Act of 2009. This may result in earlier detection and intervention for hearing-impaired babies, and reduce the occurrence of the developmental delays associated with hearing impairment.

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