he earlier a potential hearing loss in infants is diagnosed, the better the outcome for speech, language and reading.
According to a study, targeted intervention significantly improve follow-up rates by more than 70% for newborns who fail initial hearing screenings at birth hospitals.
“It is important newborns are treated for hearing loss within the first six months of life because this is a critical time for speech and language development,” said Lisa Hunter PhD, FAAA, Scientific Director of Research, Division of Audiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in the US, who conducted the study.
Infants of low-income mothers at risk
The researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center collaborated with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to improve hearing outcomes for babies. According to the study, especially infants of low-income mothers are at risk for loss to follow-up – referring to infants who reach six months without completing rescreening or diagnostic assessment. This is due to multiple barriers including transportation, lack of child care, work or school schedules and insurance coverage.
“We found by working together with WIC we significantly improved the effectiveness of newborn hearing screening programs for low-income mothers and their babies,” said Scott Wexelblatt, MD, medical director of Regional Newborn Services at Cincinnati Children’s and co-author of the study.
Improvement of 71%
Over a two-year period, 260 WIC-eligible infants were referred to the study. The loss to follow-up rates for WIC eligible infants born at intervention birth hospitals were then compared with non-WIC infants. The proportion of those who did not have a follow-up screening fell from 33.3% to 9.6%. This is an improvement of 71%. The intervention also reduced the age of hearing diagnosis from 68 days to 34.8 days – a reduction of nearly 50 percent.
The study was published in Pediatrics.