Universal newborn hearing screening not enough to improve language skills

newborn hearing screening
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Universal newborn hearing screening (NHS) is not sufficient to improve language skills in children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, according to a new study carried out by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ohio (USA).

The research team found that at least 40% of children with hearing loss have higher language ability levels, beyond what test scores indicate. The study’s results were recently published online in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

“We have focused efforts for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing on obtaining a language level that is often considered in the normal or average range on standardized assessments,” said Jareen Meinzen-Derr, PhD, an epidemiologist at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author on the new study, cited by News Medical. “But their language skills are not good enough if we account for their cognitive abilities.”

A total of 152 children were included in the study and all were assessed for neurocognitive and language abilities. A mismatch was found between the cognitive level children tested at and the expectations for their language skills. The study results showed that 41% had a significant disparity between their nonverbal cognitive scores and their language scores, which the research team defined as “language underperformance”. The researchers believe that identifying these gaps can help to target interventions to bring each child up to their actual potential.

Source: News Medical; Meinzen-Derr J et al. Language Underperformance in Young Children Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing: Are the Expectations Too Low? Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 2017 Sep 19.