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Every Day Matters.

New parents marvel at the complexity of their infants. They count wiggling fingers, stroke downy heads, and carefully examine that everything is in working order on those tiny, little bodies. What they can’t assess, however, is the hearing health of their newborn, which is just one of the reasons that all states in the U.S. now offer universal newborn hearing screening programs. These programs use simple tests to detect children with hearing loss.

Since two to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born deaf or hard of hearing, hearing screening tests have been established to ensure that children with hearing loss receive the essential support and services they need in the first two years of life, a period of time that is critical for speech and language development. If your baby did not receive a newborn hearing test, experts recommend you schedule a screening before your baby is 1 month old.

Ongoing evaluation

Even if your baby passed the hearing exam, continue to monitor your child’s hearing and speech/language development for signs of hearing loss. Some children may develop fluctuating or progressive hearing loss, or experience other changes in their hearing. Experts recommend regular hearing screenings until children are 5 years old.

Early intervention actions to take

The earlier a child’s hearing loss is found, the better the odds that language and speech will develop at a normal pace. Should your baby have a hearing loss, here are your next steps, suggested by the National Institutes of Health:

  • If your baby didn’t pass the hearing screening, schedule an exam with an audiologist before your child is 3 months old
  • You can ask your pediatrician for a reference or find a list of certified audiologists from the American Academy of Audiology
  • If the follow-up exam confirms your baby has hearing loss, start with hearing intervention services before your child is 6 months old
  • Intervention can include :
    • Hearing devices, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants
    • Communication methods, such as lip-reading or American Sign Language
  • You can find a list of speech-language pathologists from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Early intervention allows you to implement language and communication strategies that will prepare your child for the years ahead. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that children with disabilities have access to the resources and services they need to get a good education, starting with pre-school in many locations. Online and local resources – especially other parents – can help you understand the educational access issues that lay ahead for your child.

While discovering that your child is deaf or hard of hearing can be, rest assured that early intervention is the first step down toward a tomorrow that, just 20 years ago, may not have been available. It is a road punctuated by language and speech acquisition, a lifetime of learning, and a celebration of sound.

Bibliography:

What to Do if Your Baby’s Screening Reveals a Possible Hearing Problem resource page. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Web site. Update May 2011. Accessed January 4, 2012

 
Editorial Staff
I work at Phonak and write for HearingLikeMe.com.

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