Five things to know about infant hearing loss and treatment

February 23, 2017 | by Cheryl Cranick
Five things to know about infant hearing loss and treatment

For every 1,000 births in the United States, at least two to three infants will be born with hearing loss. It is often a hidden impairment and can have lifelong effects. Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) is a proactive and collaborative way of identifying infant hearing loss early, which allows families to establish the best courses of treatment for their children to foster speech and language development. All states now have EHDI programs, and roughly 97% of newborns are screened for hearing loss. Pediatrix Newborn Hearing Screen Program, an affiliate of MEDNAX, is a proud partner in this effort.


“The partnership between EDHI and Pediatrix has led to better awareness and outcomes for the patients we serve,” said Jonathan Siadman, Director of Operations for Pediatrix Newborn Hearing Screen Program. “Our goal, in conjunction with EHDI programs, is to assist parents in achieving the best speech and language outcomes for all infants.”

1. Hearing and human development are connected.

Sound and language are essential to a baby’s development, especially during the first few years of life. Within this critical time, sound influences the formation of brain pathways, which support spoken, cognitive and social skills. Studies by the National Institutes of Health show that untreated hearing loss can lead to delays in language (spoken or signed) and reading. In later childhood years and eventually adulthood, individuals with hearing loss struggle with listening, speech and literacy, which can result in lower academic performance and career advancement. Early identification and intervention are key to closing these gaps.


2. Hearing loss intervention is most effective before 6 months.

Over the past four decades, hearing screen legislation has led to improved detection rates. In the 1970s, it was not uncommon for hearing loss to go undetected until a child was 5 or 6 years old. In fact, “early” detection referred to children whose hearing loss was detected by the age of 2, which experts agree is too late for preventing childhood delays related to speech, language, social and academic skills.


Learn more about newborn hearing health


3. Untreated hearing loss is costly.

Studies have found the long-term financial costs of untreated hearing loss equal billions of dollars in medical expenses, special education costs and lost income during adulthood. But more important is the toll on social and emotional wellbeing. Not all children and families will react the same, but for some, hearing loss can lead to problems with self-esteem, isolation, behavior and learning.


4. EHDI programs are a cooperative process.

Hearing screen detection and intervention is a collaborative effort, guided by the “1-3-6 EHDI Plan” philosophy:

  • Screen shortly after birth, or no later than 1 month
  • Receive a formal diagnosis prior to 3 months
  • Begin intervention before 6 months


The success of the 1-3-6 approach is the result of the coordinated work of hearing screen providers, hospitals, parents, audiologists, state EHDI programs, physicians and other advocates who are critical to early identification and intervention of pediatric hearing loss.


5. Patient follow-up is the hardest part of treatment.

A recent study published in the journal Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery found a high number of children who fail their newborn hearing screen do not see an audiologist to confirm or rule out hearing loss. In fact, nearly one-third of parents with children at risk did not recall if their children had a newborn hearing screen. “Educating parents is a critical part of any successful newborn hearing screen program,” said Jillian Gerstenberger, AuD, Clinical Manager for Pediatrix Newborn Hearing Screen Program. “As part of Pedatrix’s program, our hearing screeners work with parents to provide education on newborn hearing screening, defining its importance to the health and growth of newborn infants. Facilitating parents through the screening-to-diagnosis process is foundational to Pediatrix’s program.”


Visit Pediatrix Hearing Screen Program Online