Statewide statistics indicate that two to four out of every 1,000 babies
have a hearing impairment at birth. That means Fremont Medical Center,
with 2,500 to 2,600 births per year, could potentially identify four to
eight babies per year who need to be referred for more in-depth evaluation.
"The objective with newborn hearing screenings is to detect hearing
loss as early as possible so we can intervene sooner to correct the problems,"
says Nursery and Neonatal
Intensive Care Supervisor Sheryl Lawrie, RNC, BSN. "All babies are
tested prior to discharge from the hospital. Babies who do not pass that
test are re-tested again later on an outpatient basis, and those who still
do not pass are referred to an audiologist to determine the cause of the
Fremont Medical Center's experience in providing newborn hearing screenings
dates back to 1996, when the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended
screening all at-risk newborns for hearing loss. With the support of donations
from the Yuba-Sutter community, we purchased hearing screening equipment
and elected to screen all newborns - not just at-risk newborns. Subsequently
in 2000, the California Department of Health Services contacted us to
participate as one of 10 facilities in developing a statewide program
mandating the universal screening of all newborns. That program - the
California Newborn Hearing Screening Program - became mandatory for all
hospitals in 2006.
"Our staff members are all well-trained and evaluated for competency
in conducting hearing screenings," Lawrie notes. "Our competence
and our years of experience are reflected in the high quality of the results
we produce. Our performance ranks well above state requirements, and we
have a very low rate of referring babies who do not actually have hearing
Treatment for newborn hearing loss can range from using hearing aids that
amplify sounds to cochlear implants - small electronic devices that can
help provide the sense of sound to a baby who is severely hard-of-hearing.
"The earlier you can intervene, the better able you are to help the
baby develop properly in terms of speech and socialization," says
Lawrie. "With our high-quality screenings, we're catching hearing
losses early, when it will help the most."
And that is sweet music to any mother's ears.