Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2017, which allows newborns and young children to continue to receive hearing screenings. President Trump signed the bill into law today. The reauthorization of this federal program will fund hearing screenings for newborns through 3-year-olds—a new age-limit specification—until 2022.
“The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is pleased that the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention legislation passed in the House and Senate and is headed to the president’s desk,” says ASHA President Gail Richard. “We are grateful for the efforts of Senators Portman and Kaine, as well as Congressmen Guthrie and Matsui in promoting this legislation. This legislation will build on the success of the program and place more emphasis on ensuring that those identified with a hearing loss receive the care they need.”
ASHA led a coalition of 14 organizations to support passage of this legislation. Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky) and Doris Matsui (D-California) originally sponsored the bill. Both representatives celebrated the passage of the bill with a joint press release posted on their websites:
“House passage of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act is a huge win for children and families,” stated Guthrie in the release. “By catching hearing loss early, families can receive information on best practices related to preventing further damage. I was proud to introduce this bill to reauthorize the newborn screening program, which has shown itself to be a proven success already, and which raised the percentage of newborn babies screened for hearing loss from 40 in 2000 to 97 percent in 2015. I’m excited to see the president sign this bill into law soon to keep up the program’s record of success.”
For her part, Matsui commented, “This program exemplifies the importance of early detection and intervention. By ensuring that infants have access to hearing screenings at birth, parents can make informed choices about their care management early on. This is critically important, given that so much of a child’s development happens in the first few years of their life. I’m pleased that through the passage of this legislation, the newborn screening and intervention program can continue to improve health outcomes for kids.”
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) advocated for the bill in the U.S. Senate. After EHDI passed, the senators shared their thoughts on the bill and its benefits.
“Early hearing detection is critical because children with hearing loss often fall behind their peers in speech development, cognitive skills, and social skills,” said Portman. “This bill takes important steps to improve early hearing detection and intervention for newborns, infants, and young children. I am pleased my House colleagues acted quickly on this important legislation, and I urge the president to sign it into law.”
Meanwhile, Kaine stated, “This bill will help kids by strengthening health programs that can detect, diagnose and address hearing loss. I’m proud we were able to get our bipartisan bill passed by Congress so it can start making a difference in the lives of families in Virginia. I was glad to join Senator Portman on this important piece of legislation and look forward to the president swiftly signing this into law.
The Centers for Disease Control, along with the Health Resources and Services Administration, manage, develop and fund the federal portion of this program. In addition to increasing the age limit for screening, the new program enhances options for follow-up testing and intervention if a child fails the screening.
For more information, contact Sam Hewitt, ASHA’s director of congressional advocacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (202) 624-5961.
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. email@example.com.