01 December 2008

Platform to improve conditions for American children with hearing loss

Twelve points aim to ensure professional treatment and removal of financial barriers and stigma for American children with hearing loss.
Platform to improve conditions for American children with hearing loss

The American not-for-profit organization Better Hearing Institute (BHI) states that many important aspects of a child's development depend on having access to communication.

Communication is essential for language acquisition, cognitive development, social and emotional well-being and academic competence. Children with untreated or under-treated hearing loss, who lack access to communication due to misinformation, neglect, minimization, stigma or financial barriers are bound to under-perform as adults.

According to BHI, most children in America with hearing loss are not receiving amplification. They are being left behind because they do not fit within existing overly restrictive paradigms of hearing disability.

Based on this, The Better Hearing Institute has developed with a platform of 12 points with the aim of bettering conditions for American children with hearing loss.

BHI stresses the need for professional treatment and systematic follow-up and wishes to minimize the financial barriers for treatment among children with lesser means.

It is also the aim of BHI to lessen stigma about hearing loss among professionals, parents, educators and the general public. And finally, BHI seeks to raise the overall awareness about prevention of hearing loss.

Source: Hearing Review

The BHI 12 Point Platform

The platform from The Better Hearing Institute consists of the following 12 points:

  • Universal newborn screening: 100 percent of infants should be afforded the opportunity to be screened for hearing loss at birth.
  • Advocacy for newborn follow-up: Once a newborn child has failed a hearing screening, there should be a 100 percent follow-up by/with parents for more diagnostic tests. Some parents wait too long until it is evident that their child is developmentally behind in speech and language skills. Others were not referred or did not receive the results from the screening. Thus, there is a need for clear routes of follow-up for parents.
  • Awareness programs: Education is needed for parents, pediatricians and educators on signs of hearing loss among children. Many parents are simply not aware that their child has hearing loss.
  • School-age screening: The implementation of universal school-age screening could have a significant impact on further identification of children at risk of hearing loss early enough in their lives to ensure enhanced academic performance and development of speech and language skills.
  • Enhanced access to technology: Only 12 percent of America’s youth with hearing loss use amplification for their hearing loss. Removing obstacles to hearing aid adoption for America’s youth will make more youths competitive with their normal hearing peers. BHI supports legislation that provides tax credits for hearing aids for dependents as well as for adults 55 or older. BHI also supports insurance coverage to ensure children are given access to technology.
  • Professional education on hearing loss treatment with amplification: Inappropriate advice often misinforms parents that their child’s hearing loss is not serious enough to require any intervention. Many professionals require more education about the options available.
  • Appropriate referral: When a parent, physician, or educator suspects hearing loss in a child, a hearing health care professional trained and skilled in the testing and diagnosis of pediatric hearing loss should evaluate the condition.
  • Expanded paradigms of treatment of hearing loss: Pediatric protocols and school IDEA educational programs emphasize treatment of children with profound and severe hearing losses. Expanded treatment also should include children with mild, moderate or unilateral hearing losses.
  • Removal of stigma of hearing loss for children as a reason for non-treatment: Many parents report that hearing aids were not adopted by their children due to the stigma of hearing loss felt by either the parents, their children or healthcare professionals. Educational programs to alleviate stigma of the hearing impaired child are needed.
  • Availability of hearing assistance technology to all parents of children with hearing loss regardless of income: In the US, no child should lack equal access to communication due to financial considerations. State and local social service and educational programs, not to mention medical insurance programs, should cover all children with hearing loss.
  • Cessation of hearing loss minimization among children: Hearing losses requiring treatment should not be minimized by calling the losses “mild”. What is not handicapping to older adults, may be seriously handicapping to a young child, who is attending school and learning language. Even mild hearing loss can interfere with a young child’s ability to overhear speech and language in their environment.
  • Prevention to protect the hearing of America’s children: As much as 13 percent of America’s youth have early signs of noise induced hearing loss. About a third of hearing loss in America is preventable with safe listening habits. Large-scale educational programs are needed to teach parents and their children how to protect their precious sense of hearing.

Published on hear-it on December 1, 2008.

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