The United States Senate is considering a bill that funds early detection and diagnosis of hearing loss in newborns, infants and young children.
I know the importance of detecting hearing loss early. Four years ago, my son was born in a Bay Area hospital. The day after my son was born, he underwent the newborn hearing screening test to check his hearing. With no history of hearing loss in our families, my husband and I couldn't fathom that our son would fail this test. But, he did. Subsequent testing concluded that he had profound hearing loss in both ears. The diagnosis was unexpected and devastating. It was difficult for us to comprehend that he could hear very little.
Identifying hearing loss as early as possible is important because babies start learning how to use sound as soon as they're born. Any delays in detecting hearing loss can impact a child's speech and language acquisition, social and emotional development, and academic achievement. These impacts, however, can be reduced if the child's hearing loss is detected early and if the child receives appropriate early intervention services such as home visits and speech therapy.
Because our child's hearing loss was identified so close to his birth, we were able to act quickly to help him. We learned about hearing loss and its impact on development, we researched different communication options for him, and we enrolled him in early intervention services. Our son began wearing hearing aids when he was two months old, but he couldn't hear much with them. We then made the difficult decision to implant him with cochlear implants. It was a very serious and personal decision for us.
Over the past four years, we've partnered with teachers of the deaf and speech therapists to teach our son how to listen and talk, and today, he has made remarkable progress. Looking back, I am so grateful that we learned about his hearing loss within the first few weeks of his life. Had it not been for the early detection that the pending Senate bill funds, I don't know when we would have discovered our son's hearing loss.