In 2001, Nevada passed legislation mandating hearing screening for all babies born in hospitals with more than 500 births in a year. The Nevada Health Division, Bureau of Family Health Services, has implemented a statewide Newborn Screening Program to help identify hearing loss in babies.
Fifteen hospitals, including Carson-Tahoe, are screening 96 percent of babies born in Nevada. The testing takes place before the baby leaves the hospital and takes only a few minutes while the baby is sleeping.
Soft sounds are played through earphones especially made for babies and responses to the sounds are automatically measured. The costs of the screening may be covered by a family's health insurance. Medicaid will pay for eligible babies.
Approximately 2-4 percent of the babies that are screened at hospitals are referred for further evaluation to an audiologist at the Nevada Health Division, Bureau of Early Intervention Services, located in Reno, Elko or Las Vegas or to a physician.
Serious hearing loss is found in about two to four out of 1,000 babies. About 50 percent of babies with hearing loss have no known signs of risk factors, like serious illness or family history of deafness.
The Nevada Health Division's Children's Special Health Care Needs Program can assist families whose baby needs hearing aids and/or medical treatment.
Some babies may develop hearing loss later in life from repeated ear infections, meningitis, head injury or other conditions.
Sometimes babies lose their hearing and the reason is never known. It is through hearing that your baby will learn to talk. The first two years of a baby's life are the most important for learning speech and language.
Because so much can be done to lessen the impact of hearing loss detected early in a babies life it is important to recognize hearing and speech developmental stages.
For birth to 3 months, an infant: quiets to familiar voices or sounds; reacts to loud sounds, startles, blinks, stops sucking, cries, or wakes up; makes soft sounds when awake, gurgles.
For 3 to 6 months: turns eyes or head toward sounds, voices, noise-making toys, dog barking; starts to make speech-like sounds, "ga," "ooh," "ba" and P, B and M sounds; reacts to change in tone of voice.
For 6 to 9 months: responds to own name and looks when called; understands simple words like "no," "bye-bye," "juice"; babbles "da da da," "ma, ma, ma," "ba ba ba."
For 9 to 12 months: responds to both soft and loud sounds, repeats single words and imitates animal sounds, points to favorite toys or food when asked.
For 12 to 18 months: Uses 10 or more words; follows simple spoken directions like "get the ball"; points to people, body parts or toys when asked; bounces to music.
For 18 to 24 months: says 20 or more words; combines two or more words, "more juice," "what's that?"; says many different consonant sounds at beginning of words, B, G, M; listens to simple stories and songs.
n Submitted by Frank Luchetti, newborn -hearing screening consultant from the State of Nevada Health Division. He can be reached at 864-4245.