Trends in age of identification and intervention in infants with hearing loss

Melody Harrison, Jackson Roush, Jennifer Wallace
Ear and Hearing 2003, 24 (1): 89-95

OBJECTIVE: In 1993, 11 hospitals in the United States were known to screen more than 90% of newborns for hearing loss. By 2000, approximately 1,000 hospitals reported screening at least 90% of their babies. This study was designed to identify trends in the age of identification and intervention for infants and young children with hearing loss in light of expanded implementation of newborn hearing screening.

DESIGN: Parents of children under 6 yr of age with a confirmed hearing loss were surveyed. The survey instrument was designed to investigate three questions: 1) is the age of identification and intervention earlier for babies whose hearing is screened at birth compared with those whose hearing is not screened; 2) when hearing is screened at birth, do ages of diagnosis of hearing loss and intervention meet the guide-lines established in 2000, by the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (Reference Note 1), and 3) what are the barriers to timely identification and intervention? Six hundred fifty-seven parents received the mailing.

RESULTS: Responses of 151 parents of children with hearing loss, born between 1996 and 2000, were analyzed. Parents from 41 states provided information. Approximately half the children reported on were screened for hearing loss at birth. Age of identification and hearing aid fitting varied substantially based on degree of hearing loss and whether the cause of hearing loss was known or unknown; however, diagnosis and intervention occurred at an earlier age for infants screened at birth. Findings indicate that when hearing is screened at birth, infants with more severe degrees of hearing loss and an unknown cause tend to be identified and receive intervention within the 2000 timelines proposed by the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing. Barriers to timely identification and intervention are discussed.

CONCLUSIONS: Before widespread implementation of newborn hearing screening, age of identification and intervention were consistently reported to exceed 2 yr of age. The results reported here indicate a trend toward earlier identification and hearing aid fitting with the implementation of newborn hearing screening. Although limited to literate and English speaking respondents, the study provides supporting evidence that newborn hearing screening lowers the ages of identification and intervention.

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