Wisconsin A National Leader in Screening for and Identifying Hearing Loss in Infants
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month
MADISON-State health officials are reminding parents during Better Hearing and Speech Month that hearing makes a big difference in how children learn and develop. Early detection of hearing-related issues can help parents help their child adapt and succeed.
"In 1999, when Wisconsin passed an initiative to begin early screening for hearing problems in babies, less than 2% of infants were screened," said Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. "Today we can proudly say that 99.5% of newborns are screened and hearing problems are being identified at a much earlier age, making it that much easier to help children before they experience delays in their critical speech and language milestones. Our collaboration with hospital and clinic partners plays a key role in this success."
Hearing screening isn't limited to babies born in a traditional hospital setting. Wisconsin has taken the lead in the effort to test babies born at home by providing licensed midwives with the equipment to screen the infants they deliver. There has also been outreach within the Amish and Mennonite communities throughout Wisconsin to ensure their babies receive the early tests, too.
A number of factors can account for hearing loss in children, including genetics, prematurity, low birth weight, maternal infections, and lack of oxygen at birth, among other causes.
Nationally, the goal is to have all infants with hearing loss diagnosed by three months of age. The Department of Health Services is working to make sure Wisconsin meets this goal with the help of the Wisconsin Sound Beginnings Program.
"Primary prevention is central to public health in Wisconsin," Anderson said. "With early detection, infants with confirmed hearing loss can receive appropriate medical evaluation and services by the time they are six months old to help them thrive."
View our public service announcements for Better Hearing and Speech Month.