Screening for hearing loss inearly childhood programs

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Early Childhood Research Quarterly





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This study assessed the feasibility of doing hearing screening in Migrant, American Indian and Early Head Start programs using otoacoustic emissions (OAE) technology. Staff members were trained to screen 0–3-year-old children for hearing loss using hand-held OAE equipment and a multi-step screening and referral protocol. Of the 3486 children screened as a part of the study, 77% passed an OAE screening at the first step, 18% more passed an OAE screening at the second step, and 5% were ultimately referred for medical or audiological follow-up. Eighty children were identified as having a hearing loss or disorder of the outer, middle or inner ear requiring treatment. Of these 80, six had permanent bilateral or unilateral hearing loss. Although the protocol suggested that the multi-step screening procedure should be completed within a 4-week time period or less, analysis of the data showed that for children requiring more than an initial OAE screening, the length of time over which the screening was completed ranged from 7 to 12 weeks. The median time required to complete a single OAE screening session was 4 minutes per child. The results demonstrate that OAE screening of young children using this protocol is practical and effective. The implications for conducting periodic hearing screening throughout early childhood are discussed.