A simple test can help.
A Screening for Every Child continued...
Unlike hearing tests for older children, which require the child to respond
to a sound by raising a hand, hearing tests for infants measure vibrations
produced by the cochlea. (The infant tests are painless.) If the vibrations are
weak, further computer-aided testing can measure the baby's brain activity in
response to noise, confirming the diagnosis of a hearing impairment. While the
basic screening test cost as much as $600 per child 20 years ago, today's
equipment has brought that figure down to about $40. "It is now feasible to
test every child when they're born," says White. "The tests are
accurate and inexpensive."
So why aren't all infants being tested? White blames the delay on the
current health care climate, where expenses are often considered before patient
needs. "Hospitals are looking to cut procedures out, not to add new
ones," he says. But despite the slow pace of change, White is optimistic.
With urging from both the medical community and the government, more and more
hospitals are making infant hearing screenings a standard procedure.
"If left undetected and untreated, a hearing disability will have a
significant impact on language development," says Foster. "That's why
we have to identify these kids within the first six months. If it goes
undetected after that, their speech levels will probably test below normal
almost indefinitely. Parents shouldn't have to go through the heartache of late
identification of these problems."
Thanks to advances in testing and treatment, the Miller household --with two
vocal little girls running about -- is anything but silent now. But that's just
fine with mom Laura; she wouldn't want it any other way.
Will Wade, a San Francisco-based writer, has a 5-year-old
daughter and was the co-founder of a monthly parenting magazine. His work has
appeared in POV magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, and