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Program Aims to Detect Hearing Loss in All Newborns

Hearing problems most common birth disorder

SATURDAY, June 1, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Many hospitals test newborn babies' hearing, but they can't find every child with hearing problems or ensure follow-up care.

A new University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) program aims to ensure early detection and treatment for all children with hearing loss. The first part of the program tries to identify children born with hearing loss, and those at risk of developing it later.

It provides educational materials to parents and doctors, and follows at-risk infants until they reach school age to ensure any hearing loss is caught as soon as possible.

The second part of the program works with families to get hearing aids for their children and find educational resources in their local areas.

Hearing loss is the most common disorder in babies at birth. Two of every 1,000 babies born in Michigan in 2000 had significant hearing loss.

Here are some listening and speech milestones in children. If a child doesn't reach these, a hearing test is recommended, says the UMHS.

  • At birth, babies should awaken or startle to loud sounds, make pleasurable sounds, and respond or hush to a caregiver's voice.
  • By 3 months, babies will watch a speaking parent's face, smile when spoken to, and repeat cooing sounds.
  • From 4 to 6 months, infants will respond to changes in a parent's tone of voice, look for the source of sounds like dogs barking or doorbells ringing, and babble or use simple sounds.
  • From 7 to 12 months, toddlers will begin to recognize words for common items, enjoy games like peek-a-boo, and begin to make speech sounds and use one or two words.
  • From 1 to 2 years, a child will point to objects by name, follow simple commands like "roll the ball," and begin to ask simple questions and use more words each month.
  • From 2 to 3 years, children understand differences like "in and out", follow two-part requests like "get the ball, and put it on the table," and can name most objects and use short sentences.

Here are risk factors for hearing loss:

  • Family history of childhood hearing loss.
  • Infections the mother had during pregnancy, such as syphilis, herpes and rubella.
  • Bacterial meningitis.
  • Misshapen ears or cleft palate.
  • Serious infection or illness needing treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit.
  • Head injury with a skill fracture or loss of consciousness.
  • Repeated or long-term presence of fluid in the eardrum for at least three months.

More information

This information from the University of Texas explains the symptoms of pediatric hearing loss and the devices and treatments currently in use.

SOURCE: News release, May 2002, University of Michigan Health Systems
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