The first few days after a baby’s birth can be some of the happiest for a growing family. Even so, the parents can have a certain amount of anxiety associated with caring for the newborn once it is home. They worry about the car seat placement, feeding and nursing issues, whether the baby sleeps through the night…and on and on. Today, infant hearing screening prior to hospital discharge is the standard of care because of the recognized benefits of early detection of hearing loss within the first year of life.
So imagine the increased concern parents have when bringing home an infant who may not hear well. Modern society provides ready access to health information online. Families may jump onto the internet searching for information without much prior knowledge of hearing loss. Information gathered this way may be outdated, biased or incorrect. By the time a family reaches an appropriate pediatric audiology facility they may well be armed with poorly-filtered information that could be confusing or just plain wrong. At this point in time, it may be necessary for audiologists to provide additional informational and adjustment counseling.
Audiologists and speech-language pathologists know that improved speech and language communication outcomes are possible when hearing loss is identified and managed early in life. The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention process (EHDI) guides professionals and families in reaching these outcomes. The goals of EHDI are to identify the hearing loss before hospital discharge, diagnose and confirm the hearing loss using advanced testing equipment and provide early access to auditory sounds through modern technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants within six months of age.
How does a family locate audiology services?
EHDI-PALS will be a national web-based directory of pediatric audiology facilities designed to assist families and professionals in the EHDI process. Not all pediatric facilities are alike or have the equipment or services required by a child at a given time. For example, some facilities do not provide cochlear implant services and others only to children over three years of age. The directory will contain detailed descriptions of pediatric audiology facilities and centers and will facilitate searching for appropriate services across the country.
The EHDI-PALS website development is in progress and is expected to go “live” in mid-2012. The site will contain links to reliable web information on childhood hearing loss, questions for families to ask the audiologists about where to go for hearing services and the EHDI process, and the EHDI-PALS directory.
The desired outcome for EHDI-PALS is to connect families with services that are family-centered and that create seamless professional audiology service provision across the early years of a child’s life. Go to www.ehdipals.org and watch the website grow and build.
Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. Before working at ASHA, she directed the Audiology Center at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC.