Permanent hearing loss at birth annually affects 24,000 infants in the USA; that is, 6 infants per 1,000 will have a hearing loss in at least one ear that will affect communication, cognition, and educational development. In March 1993, the National Institute of Health’s 15 member non-Federal panel developed a consensus statement, which recommended that all newborns be screened for hearing loss before being discharged from the hospital. They further cautioned that 20 to 30 percent of hearing loss in children occurs during infancy and early childhood. Consequently, the panel recommended a continuance of hearing screening at intervals throughout early childhood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommended that a hearing screening be done on every baby shortly after birth. Hearing loss occurs in newborn infants more frequently (6 in 1,000 births) than any other health condition for which newborn screening is already required throughout the U.S. Currently, 38 states plus the District of Columbia perform universal infant screening at birthing centers, 4 states have voluntary screening, and 8 states have no legislation requiring newborn hearing screening.
With the advent of newborn hearing screening, congenital hearing loss is being identified in children prior to 3 months of age! This is a huge difference from the mid to late 1990’s when the average age of identification in the United States was 2 1/2 to 3 years, well past the critical period for speech and language development. Hence, the importance of early childhood development is even more critical for a child with a hearing loss. Early diagnosis and intervention of hearing loss can mean the difference between toddlers entering school with severe language and concept delays versus children with age appropriate language and concept development. We all want our children to get off to a good start. Early hearing screening paves the way for children to be able to begin life on an equal footing with their hearing peers. Recent research indicates that children whose hearing losses are identified in the first 6 months of life, and who received intervention services, developed language within the normal range.
Early Intervention is a coordinated and comprehensive system of programs, services, and resources that are designed to meet the physical, intellectual, language, speech, social and emotional needs of children from birth to three years who have been identified as having a developmental delay or who are at risk for developing a delay.
The Early Intervention system of services is provided under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law encourages states to develop coordinated programs of Early Intervention services for children with disabilities from birth to age three years and to ensure that the children and their parents have the same legal right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as children that do not have disabilities.
Early Intervention services provide families with the information and support they need to maximize their child’s overall development. Early Intervention services from qualified, experienced professionals can help you understand your child’s hearing loss. You will learn about your child’s strengths and needs and ways to help your child develop. You will discover that you and your family play an important role in your child’s development. You are your child’s teacher. You are the “expert” on your child. The choices you make will be yours and they will be made with confidence because they will be informed decisions.
You may have already been contacted about Early Intervention services. If you have not and you wish to know more about early intervention services in your area you may contact BEGINNINGS for more information and referral to a program.