July 1, 2000
The tests are simple and inexpensive and can produce life-changing results, yet more than half of the 50 states do not require universal hearing screenings for newborn infants by law. On July 1, 2000, Maryland puts into effect such a law requiring hospitals to perform tests on all newborns to identify hearing loss prior to their discharge from the hospital. Currently, only infants at high risk for hearing loss -- due to a family history or pregnancy complications -- are screened.
According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, each year 420 of the 70,000 infants in the state are born with a significant hearing loss. Approximately half leave the hospital with their condition undiagnosed because they have no apparent risk factors.
The 5-minute screening exposes infants to sounds and records the inner ears' responses. The average cost ranges from $30 to $50. The potential costs associated with the disability of deafness, however, are staggering. Research shows that early intervention -- compared to late intervention -- decreases the costs of special education and rehabilitation, and improves the child's literacy and education and vocation opportunities later in life.
The following Hopkins physicians are available for comment and interviews:
Families affected by the screening also should be available for comment and interviews.
- Howard W. Francis, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery at Hopkins and member of the Governor's Advisory Council to Identify Hearing Impaired Infants. He also co-directs The Listening Center at Johns Hopkins, a cochlear implant program for children who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing.
- John K. Niparko, M.D., professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery at Hopkins and director of The Listening Center. He rigorously lobbied the state and federal governments to enact legislature requiring hospitals to screen newborns for hearing loss and is the author of the newly published book "Cochlear Implants: Principles and Practices" which examines the complex issues related to early intervention in childhood deafness.