May is Better Hearing and Speech Awareness Month

A baby has an ear bud placed in her ear prior to her newborn hearing screening. The screening measures otoacoustic emissions, which are sounds produced by the outer hair cells within the inner ear. Because May is Better Hearing and Speech Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is spreading the word about its Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program and the importance of newborn hearing screenings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

MARQUETTE — With May being Better Hearing and Speech Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working to spread the word about resources that are available for infants and children through its Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program.

“Early language and speech development in infants and children is critical to literacy success and long term educational attainment,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, in a press release. “Research has shown early identification of hearing loss and enrollment in intervention services can lead to significant benefits in childhood development.”

It’s important to test hearing early in life, as “hearing problems in children, for example, can delay the development of voice, speech, and language skills, and children with developmental speech and language problems are at risk for learning disabilities and for psychosocial problems that emerge during adolescence or adulthood,” information from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states.

If initial results of a hearing test show that an infant may have hearing loss, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders recommends making an appointment with a pediatric audiologist by the time the baby is 3 months old.

“If you need help finding a pediatric audiologist, ask your pediatrician or the hospital staff who conducted your baby’s screening. They may even be able to help you schedule an appointment,” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders officials said. “You can also try the directories provided by the American Academy of Audiology or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. If the follow-up examination confirms that your baby has hearing loss, he or she should begin receiving intervention services before the age of 6 months.”

The pediatric audiologist may recommend the infant visit a physician specializing in ear, nose and throat disorders, who may be able to determine possible causes of hearing loss and recommend intervention options. The specialist may also recommend a child’s siblings be screened for hearing loss.

All of Michigan’s 80 birthing hospitals perform newborn hearing screens and the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention assists hospitals, clinics, midwives and parents in the identification of infants who have hearing loss while helping to connect them with the appropriate audiological services, MDHHS officials said.

The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program aims to achieve goals that were set by federal and national partners to improve the detection of hearing loss, screening and early enrollment in services, officials said.

The national goals include screening all infants for hearing no later than 1 month of age, preferably before hospital discharge; ensuring all infants who do not pass the screening have a diagnostic hearing evaluation no later than 3 months of age and that all infants identified as deaf or hard of hearing are enrolled in early intervention services no later than 6 months of age.

Due to the need for “prompt identification of and intervention for childhood hearing loss,” universal newborn hearing programs, such as Michigan’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program, currently operate in all U.S. states, with more than 96% of babies now having their hearing screened within one month of birth, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

The EHDI program provides information about infant hearing screening and family support resources on its website Michigan.gov/ehdi. Two of those resources are Early On and Michigan Hands and Voices – Guide By Your Side.

The Early On program, which is a collaboration between MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Education, offers early intervention services for children from birth to 3 years of age who have developmental delays and/or disabilities, including hearing loss, MDDHS officials said.

Guide by Your Side is a nonprofit organization composed of members such as teachers, audiologists, interpreters and parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The free Guide by Your Side program provides “support and information, as well as the chance for parents just learning of their child’s hearing loss an opportunity to connect with other parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing to help guide them,” a press release from MDHHS states.

For more information on Better Hearing and Speech Awareness Month, as well as resources, visit www.asha.org/bhsm/.