Newborn hearing screening speeds diagnosis and access to intervention by 20-25 months

Yvonne S Sininger, Amy Martinez, Laurie Eisenberg, Elizabeth Christensen, Alison Grimes, Jasmine Hu
Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 2009, 20 (1): 49-57

BACKGROUND: Newborn Hearing Screening (NHS) programs aim to reduce the age of identification and intervention of infants with hearing loss. It is generally accepted that NHS programs achieve that outcome, but few studies have compared children who were screened to those not screened in the same study and during the same time period. This study takes advantage of the emerging screening programs in California to compare children based on screening status on age at intervention milestones.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this studywas to compare the outcomes of cohorts of children with hearing loss, some screened for hearing loss at birth and others not screened. Specifically, the measures compared are the benchmarks suggested by the Joint Committee on Infant hearing for determining the quality of screening programs.

STUDY SAMPLE: Records from 64 children with bilateral permanent hearing loss who were enrolled in a study of communication outcomes served as data for this study. Of these children, 47 were screened with 39 failing and 8 passing, and 17 were not screened.

INTERVENTION: This study was observational and involved no planned intervention.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Outcome benchmarks included age at diagnosis of hearing loss, age at fitting of amplification, and age at enrollment in early intervention. Delays between diagnosis and fitting or enrollment were also calculated. Hearing screening status of the children included screened with fail outcome, screened with pass outcome, and not screened. Analysis included simple descriptive statistics, and t-tests were used to compare outcomes by groups: screened/not screened, screened pass/screened failed, and passed/not screened.

RESULTS: Children with hearing loss who had been screened as newborns were diagnosed with hearing loss 24.62 months earlier, fitted with hearing aids 23.51 months earlier, and enrolled in early intervention 19.98 months earlier than those infants who were not screened. Screening status did not influence delays in fitting of amplification or enrollment in intervention following diagnosis. Eight of the infants with hearing loss (12.5%) passed the NHS, and the ages at benchmarks of those children were slightly but not significantly earlier than infants who had not been screened.

CONCLUSIONS: The age at achievement of benchmarks such as diagnosis, fitting of amplification, and enrollment in early intervention in children who were screened for hearing loss is on target with stated goals provided by the Academy of Pediatrics and the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing. In addition, children who are not screened for hearing loss continue to show dramatic delays in achievement of benchmarks by as much as 24 months. Evaluating achievement of benchmarks during the start-up period of NHS programs allowed a direct evaluation of ability of these screening programs to meet stated goals. This demonstrates, unequivocally, that the NHS process itself is responsible for improvements in age at diagnosis, hearing aid fitting, and enrollment in intervention.

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