for checking children's hearing
By Ida Lee Wootten
babies treated in neonatal intensive care units in Virginia now
have hearing screenings before being discharged, thanks to recommendations
from the Virginia Educational Audiology Task Force that were approved
this summer. As of next July, the new state regulations will make
hearing tests of all newborns mandatory.
task force, chaired by Robert Novak, associate professor of audiology
in U.Va.'s communication disorders program, recommended helping
families respond to a diagnosis of hearing impairment by giving
them information, counseling and appropriate audiological services.
U.Va. neonatologist Dr. Robert Boyle and Roger Ruth, director of
audiology in the Health System's Department of Otolaryngology, also
served on the task force. The
task force also wrote guidelines for better screening of schoolchildren
and monitoring those with hearing aids.
follow-up and early intervention services for children failing the
screening are critical," Novak said.
task force contributed to an information packet that helps parents
know what questions to ask when seeking medical, audiological and
educational services. The information packets, which provide contacts
for services, are being distributed to hospitals doing infant hearing
screenings and to primary care providers throughout Virginia this
a month after failing initial hearing screenings, newborns should
receive follow-up diagnostic testing to confirm hearing loss, Novak
said. If hearing loss is confirmed, families will be helped in contacting
the nearest Virginia Developmental Services Early Intervention Program.
addition, the group set up a statewide database to document these
screenings, the first such database in the country.
the situation for children in school, the task force found that
vast differences exist not only among Virginia's school districts,
but within districts as well, in how hearing screenings are conducted
and children with hearing impairments are monitored.
mandates require that hearing aids used by children in classrooms
work appropriately every day. "Research shows that on any given
day 50 percent of the hearing aids on children in schools are not
working effectively or at all," Novak said.
public schools need to insure consistent management of the day-to-day
hearing aid needs of hard-of-hearing children. Something as simple
as the lack of consistent approaches to hearing screenings increases
the possibility of missing hearing loss in school-age children that
can interfere with their education," he said. Although hearing
screenings of school-age (3-21 years) children are mandated by the
state, the specifics of how and by whom the screenings are conducted
are decided by local school districts. Consequently, there are significant
differences in how screenings are handled, how follow-up is conducted
and what educational interventions are applied, Novak said.
noted that current Virginia school health guidelines regarding how
hearing screenings are conducted do not follow the best practices
established by the American Speech, Hearing and Language Association.
The task force submitted to the Virginia Department of Education
best-practice guidelines for hearing screenings that include visual
inspection, middle ear examination and pure tone hearing screenings.
They also call for training of all screening personnel by a licensed
audiologist. The guidelines have been accepted and will be included
in the revised Virginia school health guidelines. Implementation
of the guidelines will still be left to the discretion of local
courtesy of the U.Va. Communication Disorders Program
sleeping newborn's hearing can be tested without disturbing the