Ninety-six per cent of infants in the US have a newborn hearing test by one month old, but many do not access the Early Hearing Detection Intervention guidelines of 1-3-6 months, or detection by one month, evaluation by 3 months and intervention by 6 months, researcher Christine Yoshinaga-Itano says. Notably, just half of deaf babies receive early intervention.
With babies diaganosed by three months and receiving intervention by six months, having far greater vocabularies than others detected later, Yoshinaga-Itago believes policymakers and parents are vital to ensuring state service responses to hearing loss are timely and seamless.
Hearing With The Brain
Of 448 children with hearing loss in both ears, aged 8 months to 39 months, in twelve US states, just 58 percent had met the EHDI 1-3-6 guidelines with the associated impact on their brain and learning development. Yoshinaga-Itano noted that when hearing loss is missed in infants, an environmentally induced and preventable secondary disability can result, making children function much like children with cognitive delay (Pediatrics, July 2017).
Her findings are matched in a survey by Australia’s HEARring Cooperative Research Centre, which saw vocabulary variations in babies with hearing devices from three and six months old, respectively. Author Teresa Ching, found language outcomes varied regardless of newborn hearing tests but said some children did not remain in the study from birth until they were five years old, the optimal timeframe for brain development (Pediatrics, August 2017).
Keeping The Brain Theme
A white paper, “Start With The Brain and Connect The Dots“, synthesised by Carol Flexer and HearingFirst, links LITERACY to listening in deaf children who use spoken language.
One crucial message in this paper is,
Babies/children must have very early access to intelligible speech and meaningful acoustic information to fully develop all auditory areas of the brain for optimization of spoken language, knowledge and literacy capacity. Hearing is a stepping stone to cognition.
Hearing is brain perception of auditory information, since the auditory cortext (biological hearing mechanism) has primary and secondary elements relating to neural and synaptic information – namely, the decoding of speech patterns for conversations and literacy.
Significantly – the paper notes,
Children [under five] receiving AVT (auditory-verbal therapy) for 50 months had speech, language and self-esteem levels similar to their hearing peers and comparable reading and math scores.
All this evidence shows that with each passing month that a young baby lacks hearing (or speech) intervention, their development is adversely impacted with negative results for their cognitive and language skills later in life. Society’s clear responsibility is to act appropriately.