During the Gala Ceremony of Polish Medical Society “Gloria Medicinae”, which took place in Royal Castle in Warsaw on 8th of November 2014, the representatives of the World Hearing Center of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing received the statuette of „Gold Otis with a Diamond”. The statuette was grated for establishing the International Consortium of Hearing Screening which successfully has been performing the Program of early detection of hearing disorders in order to equalize education opportunities of children on three continents.
The history of large-scale hearing screening programs in school-age children, initiated by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, dates back to late 90-ties of XX century. In 1996-1998, the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, participated in European program „European Concerted Action AHEAD (Advancement of Hearing Assessment methods and Devices) the goal of which was elaboration of joint standpoint on newborn hearing screening. In 1998, in Milano, the consensus of newborns universal hearing screening in Europe was singed. The signatory representing Poland was Prof. Henryk Skarżyński.
In 1999, the team from the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, in cooperation with Brigham Young University from the USA, performed hearing screening in several regions of Poland in the group of 6000 school-age children. The results revealed that 1 out of 5 children in the age of 6-19 suffer from some kind of hearing disorder.
In the years 1998-2001 under the framework of the Government Program for Handicapped and Their Integration in the Society, financed by the National Rehabilitation Fund (PFRON), with participation of almost 70 centers from all over Poland, hearing screening was being popularized and implemented, and the diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitation infrastructure for future screening programs was established. The screening program, coordinated by the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, encompassed over 60,000 newborns and infants.
A program of hearing screening in school children from 6th grade is being implemented in Warsaw since 2007. In 2011 this program included also 1st graders. Until present day these programs covered more than 97,000 children.
In the years 2008 – 2011 the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, in collaboration with the Contribution Fund of the Farmers Social Insurance and the Agricultural Social Insurance Fund (KRUS) conducted screening in schools in villages and small towns. In total there were almost 293,000 children screened during these programs.
The program developed and next partners joined it – City of Warsaw Municipal, local governments, non-governmental organizations, etc.
Only in all mentioned above programs, over 500 000 school-age children in Poland have been screened.
These long-term activities and achievements of the Institute’s team have been acknowledged by Polish Ministry of Health, which has invited Prof. Skarżyński to coordinate one of Public Health Priorities performed during Polish Presidency of the European Union Council (July-December 2011). “Equal opportunities for children with communication disorders in the European countries” was the title of action. As the result of works and negotiations carried out during the Presidency was the EU Council Conclusions on early detection and treatment of communication disorders in children, including the use of e-Health tools and innovative solutions (2011/C 361/04), adopted by the Ministers of Health of all EU countries at the EPSCO meeting in Brussels, on December 2, 2011.
Yet, the idea of hearing screening programs in children, promoted by the team of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, was supposed to reach also developing countries which characterize poorer level of prevention and public health system, and which would benefit significantly from knowledge and experience of Polish experts. That is why, the Institute’s team came up with the initiative to establish the International Consortium of Hearing Screening, consisting of such countries as Armenia, Ivory Coast, Kirgizstan, Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Tajikistan, and obviously Poland.
As the result of this cooperation, the pilot hearing screening programs in selected schools have been performed in all countries of the consortium. Additionally, local otolaryngologists and audiologists had the opportunity to participate in conferences and surgical workshops organized in the World Hearing Center of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing in Kajetany (Poland).
The results collected in these countries – European, Asian, African – confirmed a significant occurrence of hearing disorders in school-age children, that is in 13%-30% of children who underwent the screening tests. Apart of hearing impairments at the level of 20-30 dB, there were cases of hearing loss at high frequencies and profound impairments – unilateral and bilateral. According to the rules of cooperation within the consortium, children with detected disorders are taken under care by local physicians.
The members of International Consortium of Hearing Screening are: