Vermont is a National Leader in Newborn Hearing Screening

For Immediate Release: August 21, 2003

Contact: Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA
Commissioner of Health
802-863-7280

Jason Gibbs
Governor’s Press Secretary
802-828-3333

Montpelier, VT—“Vermont has become a leader in the nation’s efforts to have all infants screened for hearing loss,” said Governor Douglas. “As of June 2003, all infants born in Vermont hospitals have the opportunity to receive a newborn hearing screening.”

Vermont’s current screening rate is 95 percent and all babies born in Vermont hospitals have the opportunity to receive early screening and intervention services. Vermont has reached this impressive public health goal without a law mandating it. At least 38 other states have laws mandating newborn hearing screening.

According to the National Campaign for Hearing Health, approximately one in 300 children are born with some form of deafness - either partial or total hearing loss. The Governor said there are approximately 6,000 births in Vermont each year and, based on national estimates, the state expects somewhere between 20 and 40 Vermont babies to be born each year with some degree of hearing loss.

If hearing problems are detected in the first weeks of life, new technology and special training can allow these children to develop speech and cognitive skills at a rate similar to children who have no hearing loss. Repeated studies have shown that interventions are most effective when hearing loss is identified early.

“It is critically important to identify children’s hearing problems at an early age,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Paul E. Jarris. “Infants with hearing loss who receive intervention services by six months of age have much better success in developing language and vocabulary skills which they will need to succeed in school.”

Dr. Lewis First, chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care, agreed. “Being able to detect abnormal hearing in a newborn child is crucial,” said First. “It’s one of the best preventative health measures we can offer in enhancing the development of the child.”

A report released in July by the National Campaign for Hearing Health provided a state-by-state comparison of infant hearing screening rates. It showed that Vermont was one of 40 “excellent” states with at least 90 percent of infants screened and a system for coordination, training, quality assurance and follow-up.

Governor Douglas commended this successful public-private partnership between state government and Vermont hospitals.

“The Health Department worked closely with concerned parents, hospitals and primary care physicians to develop the newborn hearing screening system. Vermont’s hospitals do the screening, and Health Department staff coordinates follow-up screening and care with primary care physicians and families. And, our children benefit.” Douglas said.