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Ten Years of Newborn Hearing Screening

I decided to share the following exerts from a more in-depth release from Audiologist Kathleen Watts, Program Manager for the NC Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program, because I thought many of you would like to learn more about North Carolina’s newborn hearing screening program.

Screening newborns for hearing loss is now the standard of care within all hospitals in the United States, and North Carolina is no exception. Modern technology has created procedures that are painless, simple, fast and easy, especially when a baby is sleeping.  Currently, the 87 birthing facilities in the state screen infants for hearing loss prior to the child going home, resulting in a screening rate of more than 98% of all babies born in the state.

Everyday 33 babies (about 12,000 each year) are born in the U.S. with permanent hearing loss.  In 2008, 210 babies born in North Carolina were identified with hearing loss through the Newborn Hearing Screening program.

Hearing loss is the most frequently occurring congenital condition, but may also be acquired later during childhood. When left undetected, hearing loss in infants can negatively impact speech and language acquisition, academic achievement, and social and emotional development. If detected, however, these negative impacts can be diminished and even eliminated through early intervention.

For most babies, the initial screen in the hospital is the end of the process. However, some babies may need further follow-up.

Even when a child passes the newborn hearing screening, it is important for parents to be aware of normal speech and hearing development. Progressive and late-onset hearing losses occur as frequently as congenital hearing loss.

Any hearing loss needs to be identified and receive intervention as soon as possible in order to maximize a child’s development.  Parents should talk to their doctor or primary care provider about any concerns they have about their child’s hearing or speech and language development.

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Shawn VanSteen is the Newborn Hearing Screen Coordinator for WakeMed Health & Hospitals, serving two hospital locations WakeMed Raleigh Campus and WakeMed Cary Hospital, where he is responsible for screening 8,600 babies each year.