Infant Screening Gains Media Spotlight Gaps Persist in Confirmed Diagnoses and Early Intervention Features
Features  |   June 01, 2007
Infant Screening Gains Media Spotlight
Author Notes
  • Dee Naquin Shafer, an assistant managing editor for The ASHA Leader, can be e-mailed at
    Dee Naquin Shafer, an assistant managing editor for The ASHA Leader, can be e-mailed at×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Early Identification & Intervention / Features
Features   |   June 01, 2007
Infant Screening Gains Media Spotlight
The ASHA Leader, June 2007, Vol. 12, 1-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.12082007.1
The ASHA Leader, June 2007, Vol. 12, 1-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.12082007.1
In 1988, when Koop called for a significant increase in early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI), fewer than 3% of newborns received early screening. The current screening rate is 95% but should be higher, said Koop and other panelists at a May 9 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., held to mark Better Hearing and Speech Month.
The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing sponsored the event, calling attention to persistent gaps in EHDI. State program coordinators report that 34% of babies who failed newborn hearing screenings did not receive a confirmation of a diagnosis after initial screening. And nearly a quarter (23%) of babies who did receive a confirmed diagnosis still failed to be referred to early intervention services.
Koop noted that his 1988 challenge was called unrealistic—but finally happened. The new challenge is to ensure sufficient follow-up services.
Karl White, founding director of the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, praised improvements in EHDI, noting that the Head Start program also helps identify children with hearing loss.
“There are 12,000 infants born each year with congenital hearing loss,” White said. “We know if infants with hearing loss are identified early enough and provided services, they can develop normally and lead different lives than children [from 20 years ago].” At that time, adults who were deaf read, on average, at a third-grade level.
Forty states have EHDI laws and another five have voluntary screening. Moving the numbers up will take time, White added.
“It took a while to get people to wear bicycle helmets and to stop smoking. Those seem so common-sense now,” he said.
“Medical Home” Needed
Frank Aiello, a developmental pediatrician for the High Risk Neonatal Follow-up Clinic of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (Norfolk, Virginia), spoke of the need for a “medical home” for children with hearing loss. The medical home model includes a primary health care professional who works in partnership with the family and patient to assure that all medical and non-medical needs are met. Aiello is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on EHDI and the Medical Home.
“Every child can succeed if we give them the tools they need,” said John Hager, assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education. Hager pointed to release of the regulations on Part C (infants and toddlers program, 0–2 years) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as a positive step in the direction of success.
The final speaker, Stacy Allen, shared her personal passion about early intervention for hearing loss. Three of her four children, all under the age of 10, were diagnosed with congenital hearing loss. Thanks to early identification and cochlear implants before age 1, the three are fully mainstreamed in their local elementary school in Wake Forest, North Carolina, she said.
Allen and her husband Anthony had no history of hearing loss on either side of their families, and found audiologists and other professionals to be invaluable as they navigated through the medical system, she said. In fact, her two sons passed newborn screening but later tests revealed their hearing losses.
“I encourage parents who suspect their children have hearing loss to take action—there is no time to waste, no shortcuts,” Allen added. “Every family should have the access and direction for early intervention.”
Intervention Brings Success

“The Allen children are a wonderful success story,” said Kathryn Wilson, a speech-language pathologist and auditory verbal therapist in Chapel Hill, N.C., who treated Stacy and Anthony Allen’s three school-age children.

The youngsters, 9-year-old Bethany, 8-year-old Evan, and 6-year-old Leighton, are fully mainstreamed in their local elementary school in Wake Forest, N.C. They all have Individualized Education Programs.

Wilson has worked for several years with the Allen family, who are moving soon to Missouri. At the present time, school services are mostly consultative for Bethany and Evan, with about an hour or two weekly for pre-teaching new vocabulary. Wilson said by e-mail that after the family moves, she doubts the two older children will need even this level of service, as their scores on all language assessments are good.

“At age 3, they were scoring within the average range on every measure I used,” she said.

The youngest son, Leighton, was diagnosed with apraxia and dysarthria when he was about 2. He receives support both at school and privately, but Wilson expects that he will need only another year of treatment.

ASHA Works to Increase EHDI Funding

ASHA President Noma Anderson recently submitted testimony to Congress to urge approval of a 10% increase in funding for the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program.

The federal EHDI programs, through the Health Resources Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provide funds to states to screen, diagnose, and provide early intervention services for hearing loss in infants and young children.

ASHA’s congressional testimony can be found at For more information, contact Elizabeth Mundinger, director of federal and political advocacy, at or 800-498-2071, ext. 4473.

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June 2007
Volume 12, Issue 8