From Sandra Kase Ellis, Au.D.

Universal newborn hearing screening in Washington State is a goal we can meet with your help. While hearing screening is not one of the 10 disorders for which screening is required it is tracked on the same Department of Health card as the required screenings. 2005 statistics (the latest year available) suggest 94% of our state newborns were screened. Our goal is 100%.

Why screen for hearing loss? Only approximately 50% of hearing loss in children is traceable to risk factors such as family history of hearing loss, illness during pregnancy or birth complications. By not screening we miss 50% of all hearing impaired children. Recent studies show hearing loss is the most prevalent birth disorder. Significant bilateral hearing loss has been shown to be present in approximately 1 to 3 per 1000 newborns in the well-baby nursery population, and in approximately 2 to 4 per 1000 infants in the intensive care unit population. This makes hearing loss more common than other disorders for which an infant will receive a required screening test in Washington State.

Children who are diagnosed with hearing loss after 6 months of age are at risk for speech, language, reading, social and cognitive delays requiring additional educational spending by the state. (Not to mention the effect on the child!) Children who receive intervention services by 6 months are significantly closer to their normal-hearing peers in these areas. Early screening and intervention results in significant benefits to the hearing impaired child as well as significant cost savings in education and social-support needs.

The 1-3-6 Goal The goal of the early hearing loss detection and intervention program (EHDDI) is for all infants to be screened by 1 month of age. If they fail the screening they receive diagnostic audiologic assessment by 3 months of age and those identified with hearing loss to be in a program and receiving intervention services by 6 months of age.

For hospital births, screening is typically conducted onsite. The desire is to test as many infants as possible prior to going home. Infants born outside of the hospital may present for screening at most hospitals; but a few are rumored to provide screening only for their inpatients. A phone call to the hospital can determine their policy. Additionally, approximately 50 audiology offices around the state are on the state list of “best practices” offices with both the equipment and personnel for newborn testing. To find the nearest office to your practice I would recommend calling the Washington State EHDDI Program in the Department of Health at 206-418-5613. See the pdf below for a list of pediatric audiologists.

As an advocate for early intervention I would encourage you to discover your closest audiology resource and to encourage your parents to take their newborns for hearing screening.

For a list of locations all across the state where newborns can receive hearing screening, click here (PDF).

Sandra Kase Ellis, Au.D.
Seattle Hearing and Balance
1600 E. Jefferson Suite 202
Seattle,WA 98122

Handout for parents (PDF)
Pediatric Audiologists