What parents want from physicians: Audiologists bridge the information gap for families of infants with hearing loss

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ASHA Leader





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Hearing screening has become a routine procedure for newborns. When parents learn that further testing is indicated, however, it can be difficult and anything but routine. The baby’s primary care physician is often the first professional to see the family following discharge, and is expected to provide parents with guidance, but not all physicians are familiar with hearing loss and the information parents need to obtain appropriate and timely follow-up for their children. Pediatric audiologists are well-positioned to support physicians’ informational needs and play a critical role in communicating with physicians and educational outreach—in short, to be the experts.

Since the advent of universal newborn hearing screenings in 1993, the role of pediatric audiologists has expanded significantly and now routinely includes infants in need of services. Although the percentage of newborns screened for hearing loss in the United States has steadily increased in the last 15 years from fewer than 20% in 1997 to more than 95% in 2010 (White, Forsman, Eichwald, & Muñoz, 2010), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2005 and 2006, state early hearing detection intervention (EHDI) programs were unable to document the diagnostic findings for 65% of the infants who failed the hospital screening (Gaffney, Green, & Gaffney, 2010). Even though the increase in screening represents significant progress in the identification of hearing loss, efforts to connect families to services after failed newborn hearing screenings are not as successful.

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