Helping infants in under-served populations

©Valérie Duflot

Infant-toddler hearing screening conducted in Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) may effectively identify cases of post-natal hearing loss, according to a study conducted across seven FQHCs. “This is one of the first studies in a primary care setting using Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) technology coupled with tympanometry, allowing physicians to better triage patients for immediate audiology referral,” say the authors. While newborn hearing screening has improved outcomes for children diagnosed with hearing loss, the screening protocol are incomplete in the critical early development years, particularly in underserved populations. To address this gap, the FQHSs implemented a periodic, objective infant-toddler hearing screening program during well-child visits. The study aimed to determine the ability of these primary care providers to implement the hearing screening protocol and to identify children in need of audiologic follow-up. Among 1965 OAE screens, 75% took <10 minutes, and 205 patients (10%) failed OAEs in at least 1 ear; based on tympanometry, middle ear effusions were present in 102 of these cases (50%), while 45 cases (22%) raised concerns for sensorineural hearing loss. Physicians accurately interpreted tympanogram results in 89% of cases. There were 5 patients identified with confirmed permanent sensorineural hearing loss. CONCLUSION:: Findings demonstrate that infant-toddler hearing screening in FQHCs is feasible to conduct, and it may effectively identify cases of postnatal hearing loss.

Source: J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2013 Jan;34(1):15-21

Rose Simpson