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Newborn Hearing Screenings: Leading the Way in Improving the Qua

Sheryl Lawrie, RNC, BSN

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 hearing loss."

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 problems."

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.