Screening of newborns for permanent congenital or early-onset hearing impairment has emerged as an essential component of neonatal care in developed countries, following favourable outcomes from early intervention in the critical period for optimal speech and language development. Progress towards a similar programme in developing countries, where most of the world’s children with hearing impairment reside, may be impeded by reservations about the available level of support services and the possible effect of the prevailing healthcare challenges. Ethical justification for the systematic introduction of screening programmes for hearing in newborns based on the limitations in current primary prevention strategies, lack of credible alternative early-detection strategies and the incentives for capacity-building for the requisite support services is examined.
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