I came across a good article in the New York Times which highlights the need for hearing tests for newborns: without them it is difficult to predict what might be wrong if the child is not speaking or reaching other developmental milestones.
Hearing tests are mandatory in 40 states, and routine but optional in the rest. There’s a good reason for the rule:
“We need to identify children early and provide them with hearing tools and training by the time they are 6 months,” said Dr. John Greinwald, a pediatric otologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Studies now confirm that the earlier the intervention, the better the chance that the child will develop listening and language skills.
“If you hear from birth, you learn to listen,” said Anne Oyler, an audiologist for the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association. “More than 90 percent of what babies learn is from incidental listening. If a child isn’t fitted with hearing aids until 2, that is when he or she will have to start learning what sounds are. If we catch kids in the first few months, we don’t see delays and they do beautifully.”
Hearing impairments are pretty common: 1 in 1000 babies are born deaf. The prevalence of this disability is what interested me in pursuing hearing research for my thesis, but also makes it equally distressing when precautions that could aid children in development go unheeded.