New CDC report finds gaps in newborn hearing screening despite improvements


©Paul Ripke

The late August edition of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" has indicated that some newborns in the United States are still not being screened for hearing loss or congenital heart disease, reports WebMD.

Since the 1970s, the United States has had a program in place for screening of newborns for numerous health conditions through dried bloodspots, and also for hearing since the 1990s. It is estimated that some four million babies born in the country undergo screening each year.

According to Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Director of the CDC, “Newborn screening at birth is crucial to quickly identify infants at risk of hearing loss and congenital [inherited] heart disease so they can receive early intervention and follow-up care. Finding these conditions early can give infants the best chance to properly develop, and lead healthy lives,” Fitzgerald added in a news release from the agency.

It has been estimated that almost two in every 1,000 newborns have permanent hearing loss. The US health system includes a federally funded Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program that supports “1-3-6” screening of infants: test for hearing loss before 1 month of age, diagnosis before 3 months of age, and intervention before 6 months of age.

Although significant progress has been made, there is still room for improvement concerning diagnostic evaluation in infants who failed hearing screening (currently 58%), and documented enrollment in early intervention after confirmation of hearing loss (currently 65%). Improvements have also been made regarding the number of infants lost to follow-up or lost to documentation.

Source: WebMD; CDC