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November 26, 2002

Testing Your Newborn's Hearing

From: KXAN-TV, TX Nov. 26, 2002

When a child is born, those first few days of life can be hectic and tiring for new parents.

Health professionals say parents should take the time to have a simple screening done on their child, a newborn hearing screening.

One-year-old Hailey Smith is just starting to learn the basics of sound.

"It's just like a newborn baby. She's just beginning to listen and learn," Deaf Ed Specialist Sandra Fudge said.

Not long after she was born, Heather and Bryant Smith noticed something very different about their daughter.

"She didn't respond to the vacuum cleaner, and she never got startled as a baby and that's a big thing for infants when they're first born is that they startle a lot," Hailey's mom Heather Smith said.

Hailey didn't startle because she didn't hear the sounds.

At five months old, an audiologist diagnosed her as profoundly deaf.

When Hailey was born at St. David's Medical Center, health professionals did not offer her parents a newborn hearing screening something now mandated by Texas Law, but Hailey wasn't the only child that missed that screening so did the majority of other babies born between May and November of 2001."

Texas law required all birthing facilities to offer the screenings to parents by April of last year. Soon after that, St. David's officials saw a trend in their results.

"We noticed a lot false positives and false negatives on the hearing screens. That presented a lot of alarm with the physicians and the parents of the newborn babies," Jeanne Nagy with St. David's Medical Center said.

At that point, COO Jeanne Nagy says they stopped doing the screenings until they could hire a company with different equipment to do them.

In the meantime, they did diagnostic tests more comprehensive than the screenings but only on the high risk babies.

So in that period of almost six months, St. David's officials say about 2,000 babies were not screened.

"I just want them to take responsibility for what they did. They made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. No big deal. Just take responsibility for what you did," Heather said, "How many babies were born that their parents didn't even realize that that was something? That was an option they should have been given right then and there -- the first 24 hours of life."

After Hailey's diagnosis, St. David's sent letters to their staff pediatricians letting them know the screenings were not done.

The Smiths just want parents to know the screening could be vital to their child's future.

"First time parents. What do you do with this kid. You don't understand why they're crying and why they're not responding to you. You just think it's normal. Maybe it's not," Hailey's dad Bryant Smith said.

Even if a screening doesn't find a problem, audiologists say impairments can develop as a child grows.

"It's absolutely important that the parents pay attention to the child and work with the pediatrician for an ongoing evaluation and assessment," Nagy said.

Fortunately for Hailey, her parents caught the problem early.

"What research is showing us that the babies that are identified this early with this kind of intervention close the gap much quicker than kids who don't get that kind of service early," Fudge said.

Hailey recently got a cochlear implant now she's making new sounds and making progress.

St. David's officials say they're in the process of sending out another letter to doctors who take care of the children born in that time period from May to November 2001.

If your child was born there during that time, check with your doctor if you have concerns.

St. David's resumed the screenings on November 12 of last year.

No matter where or when your child was born, there are behaviors that could signal hearing problems at every stage of life.

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