House Adopts Newborn Hearing Screening Legislation
(April 15, 2008 - Reston, Virginia) - The American Academy of Audiology, the largest organization of audiologists representing over 10,000 professionals, commends the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R.1198 on April 8, 2008, taking a big step toward reauthorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act (EHDI). "The Academy commends Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Rep. Jim Walsh (R-NY) for their leadership on issues impacting individuals with hearing loss in our nation," stated Academy President, Alison M. Grimes, AuD. In passing the bill, Rep. Capps, the bill's primary sponsor, issued a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives thanking the Academy for our support for this legislation.
Each day, 33 infants are born in the United States with significant hearing loss, making it the most frequently occurring birth defect. The impact of delayed diagnosis and intervention critically compromises their speech, language, and cognitive and social skills. States have successfully tackled this issue through newborn hearing screening programs, due to the action by Congress to first authorize the EHDI programs back in 2000. When the legislation was first approved, 44% of newborns were screened for hearing loss. With the help of congressional funding, this has increased to 93% of all newborns being screened each year.
However, the success of screening programs depends on follow-up services and connecting families to early intervention programs, not just testing. To provide the care these infants need requires that screening programs be connected to pediatric audiology services, appropriate early intervention programs, family support, and tracking and data management activities.
H.R.1198 will provide new authority to allow improvement in these areas. First, it provides authority to address those children who are falling through the cracks and not receiving necessary follow-up after they fail the newborn hearing screening. Based on what we have learned during the past five years, there is an urgent need to develop better systems to reduce the number of children who are lost to follow-up and encourage states to replicate successful models.
Second, H.R.1198 would provide the agency authority to support excellent family-to-family support programs developed by state EHDI programs and other organizations that are not yet widely implemented.
Third, H.R.1198 would enable the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a post-doctoral research fellowship program to effectively recruit researchers to become involved in early hearing detection and intervention.
Finally, H.R.1198 provides the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services the authority to address the shortage of trained health professionals necessary to make certain that every child who is screened and has a hearing problem gets access to appropriate diagnosis and intervention programs needed to succeed.
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