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Mandatory Tests To Identify Infant Hearing Loss

Reported by: AP News
Web produced by: Neil Relyea
10/18/03 10:43:23 AM

By July of next year, all newborn babies in the state of Ohio will be screened for possible hearing problems.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the testing currently being done is having a positive impact.

Experts say that with the hearing tests, they've found more babies with hearing problems.

Ohio hospitals will be required to screen all infants for possible hearing problems by June 30, under a 2002 law.

Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss said 21 of the 124 hospitals affected by the requirement are meeting the guidelines, and another 19 have submitted plans.

Ann Wheat, an audiologist with the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, said hospital screening programs have sent 35 newborns with hearing problems for treatment through the first nine months of this year, up from fewer than 30 in all of 2002.

"I suspect a lot of those babies are a direct result of the universal screening," said Wheat. "If we can get hold of these babies now and get them identified, then we are so far ahead of the game."

Medical organizations, audiologists and others have long urged more testing of newborns, saying it would give them a better chance of receiving help before hearing loss affects speech development.

"We've found that if we can identify and fit a child with hearing aids by four months of age, we can make a significant difference," said Cindy Creek, clinical coordinator of speech pathology and audiology at Mount Carmel West Hospital in Columbus.

The number of infants being screened and evaluated for hearing loss tripled from 1999 to 2001, according to figures the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday.

However, follow-up treatment remained low, according to medical officials.

According to the Center for Disease Control, hearing problems occur in one to three newborns out of 1,000.

Ohio's former screening method involved filling out a questionnaire that aimed to identify infants considered to have a high risk of hearing trouble. "Half of those babies wouldn't be tested in the first place," Creek said.

Parents can refuse the hearing screening, but so far, all those Creek has seen have been receptive.



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