New state law mandates hearing tests for newborns

New state law mandates hearing tests for newborns

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 9:08 pm
By: AP

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has joined 43 other states that require all newborns to undergo a hearing test before leaving the hospital. Babies born outside hospitals are required to be tested within 48 hours under a state law that took effect July 1. With roughly 12,000 babies born annually in the U.S. with a hearing loss, federal health officials recommend all infants have a hearing check in the first three months of life. The hearing test brings to 41 the number of problems that all Tennesse newborns are screened for within hours of birth. Margaret Major is director of women’s health and genetics at the state Health Department. She says parents may opt out of screening, but few do. “The conditions they screen for are problems that aren’t going to go away,” said Kitty Cashion, co-chairman of the public affairs committee for March of Dimes in Tennessee. “The benefit of screening is when you find out about a problem early enough you can start treatment and prevent complications.” In 2006, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 89,120 newborns were screened in Tennessee. Of those, 180 were found to have one of the inherited disorders then part of screening. The list has since expanded to include problems such as cystic fibrosis, as well as hearing loss. Untreated, hearing problems are associated with delays in speech and language development. Without routine screening, officials said the average American youngster is almost 2 1/2 years old before a hearing loss is detected. Joyce Williams of Memphis said she was pleased to know her baby is apparently normal. “You want to know you have a healthy baby,” Williams said. The tests cost $100 to $150, depending on which of two hearing tests are used. Major said the cost is covered by insurance and hospitals often offer it as part of a flat-rate newborn delivery package. Babies who don’t pass one of the two tests are referred to specialists for additional testing. Published in The Messenger 7.30.08

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