New York City Schools Cancel Hearing Screenings: ASHA Protests in Letter to Mayor Bloomberg In response to a recent decision by the New York City Department of Education to rescind routine hearing screening for kindergarten and first-grade students, ASHA and other organizations—including the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City—are calling upon New York City ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   November 01, 2009
New York City Schools Cancel Hearing Screenings: ASHA Protests in Letter to Mayor Bloomberg
Author Notes
  • Rend Al-Mondhiry, JD, director of state and regulatory advocacy, can be reached at ral-mondhiry@asha.org.
    Rend Al-Mondhiry, JD, director of state and regulatory advocacy, can be reached at ral-mondhiry@asha.org.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Early Identification & Intervention / School-Based Settings / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   November 01, 2009
New York City Schools Cancel Hearing Screenings: ASHA Protests in Letter to Mayor Bloomberg
The ASHA Leader, November 2009, Vol. 14, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.14152009.4
The ASHA Leader, November 2009, Vol. 14, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.14152009.4
In response to a recent decision by the New York City Department of Education to rescind routine hearing screening for kindergarten and first-grade students, ASHA and other organizations—including the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City—are calling upon New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to restore the public school screening program.
The screening program came to a halt on the recommendation by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The decision was based on outdated information—notably a 1996 report that appears to have relied on 1981 recommendations from the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examinations.
The program cancellation counters state law, which requires local boards of education to provide “hearing screening to all students within six months of admission to the school and in grades kindergarten, 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10, and at any other time deemed necessary.” Although NYC public schools are exempt from the state mandate, ASHA is hoping the harmful decision will be reconsidered.
In a Sept. 30 letter to Mayor Bloomberg and the deputy mayors overseeing the decision-making departments, ASHA President Sue T. Hale stated ASHA’s opposition to the change in policy and requested reinstatement of the program. Other planned efforts in the campaign to restore the program include an op-ed submitted to the New York Times and a podcast on the effects of noisy classrooms, how hearing loss impacts children in school, and the benefits of screening.
“It is at best disingenuous that the Bloomberg administration is utilizing antiquated references for the purpose of cancelling the hearing program for school-age children in New York City,” Hale noted in the letter.
“Because of this decision, thousands of New York City schoolchildren are now at a serious health risk,” and city residents “could face years of bearing unnecessary health, educational, and social costs.”
To date, ASHA has received no response, and its multiple attempts to contact Bloomberg administration officials were unsuccessful.
The New York City public schools enroll more than 1 million students; ASHA projects that approximately 60,000 of them have mild or unilateral hearing loss. Children whose hearing loss is undetected are especially vulnerable to academic, social, and behavioral problems that can significantly impact educational costs and affect achievement.
Hearing screening for school-age children is strongly supported by leading children’s health and hearing experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Institute On Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Educational Audiology Association.
Promoting Hearing Screening Across the Lifespan

ASHA’s efforts to restore the school hearing screening program in New York City are part of a broader strategy to promote routine hearing screening at all ages. As part of its “Hearing Screening Across a Lifetime” campaign, ASHA is developing recommendations for school hearing screenings that address screener qualifications, testing and equipment standards, documentation requirements, and appropriate follow-up protocols for children with suspected hearing loss.

Although the majority of states mandate routine school hearing screenings, the requirements vary significantly, and ASHA’s efforts will focus on implementing national uniform standards, techniques, and protocols for school-based hearing screenings. The campaign complements ASHA’s recent Phase II Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) efforts aimed at promoting follow-up and early intervention for infants and children with hearing loss.

Podcast, Take Action

Hearing screening in public schools, vital for students’ success, does not happen in all districts and follows no uniform protocol. A new consumer-oriented ASHA podcast features three experts who explain the screening process and how parents can help ensure that their children are screened. Consumers are also urged to contact Take Action and 800-638-8255 to learn more about supporting this important issue.

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November 2009
Volume 14, Issue 15