All newborns' hearing will be tested in hospitals after their birth, starting on January 1, according to a decision by the Health Ministry.
Modern technology allows infants to be screened non-invasively, painlessly and electronically, even if they are asleep.
The ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that early detection of hearing problems makes them easier to treat. Today, some hospitals perform the test voluntarily; now they will have to do it. If the baby and its mother are discharged early before the test is performed, they will be invited back for it. A ministry circular will be issued soon to inform hospital managements.
Galit Sefi, director-general of MICHA, the Association for Hearing-Disabled Children, congratulated the Health and Finance ministries on the decision.
"This corrects an unfair condition in which hospitals, mostly in the center of the country, have screened infants voluntarily, and those mostly in the periphery have not," she said.
As babies with hearing difficulties suffer cognitive and developmental difficulties because of their disability, treating them with hearing aids or cochlear implants can ensure that their functioning is normal, Sefi concluded.