Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Program
The Pennsylvania Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention program seeks to assure that all newborns:
- are screened for hearing loss within the first 30 days,
- are diagnosed within three months, and
- receive prescribed treatment or intervention services within six months of birth.
These standards are consistent with The Infant Hearing Education, Assessment, Reporting and Referral (IHEARR) Act (Act 89 of 2001) as well as the Health Resources and Services Administration's and Healthy People 2020 Objectives on Newborn Hearing Screening.
Newborns receive an initial hearing screening while still in the hospital. Infants who do not pass the initial screen, receive follow-up re-screening at the hospital, often as an outpatient. If an infant does not pass the re-screening, his/her primary care provider (PCP) is notified. The PCP directs and coordinates the follow-up evaluation and referral process within the child's medical home. Usually, the PCP refers the infant to an audiologist with expertise in the evaluation of infant hearing loss for a diagnostic evaluation.
If hearing loss is diagnosed, the PCP may do one or more of the following:
- have the infant fitted by an audiologist with hearing aids or other assistive devices;
- refer the infant to a medical specialist for treatment; or
- refer the infant to appropriate agencies capable of providing early intervention services.
The Department of Health performs follow-up and tracking of infants not passing their follow-up re-screening. Department staff determines whether appropriate assessment and evaluation is completed in a timely fashion and that infants receive the prescribed treatment and intervention. Infants identified as being at risk of delayed onset hearing loss receive continued monitoring as appropriate.
The department also administers infant hearing screening educational outreach and training workshops for nurses, audiologists, physicians, early intervention staff, and other concerned professionals.
Since children learn to speak by 18 months of age, infants with a hearing loss have the best chance to learn to communicate well if hearing loss is identified and treated soon after birth. Developmental delays may occur if an infant's hearing loss is left untreated. Without newborn hearing screening, more than 50% of infants with hearing loss go undetected until age 2 1/2, when parents rely on their own or their pediatrician's observation that their child is not reacting normally.