As a result of the 1993 National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement recommending hearing screening for all infants before discharge from the newborn nursery, there are an increasing number of newborns identified with hearing impairment requiring follow-up services. Research has shown that hearing-impaired infants who receive intervention by the time they are 6 months adjusted gestational age are likely to develop language that is equal to their normal-hearing peers. Newborn hearing screening will not attain its goal of early intervention for hearing loss unless a comprehensive follow-up program is in place. The neonatal nurse plays an important role in the follow-up program by providing information to parents and stressing the importance of follow-up.
Follow-up for infants identified through the screening process includes rescreening within 4 to 6 weeks of discharge and a full diagnostic evaluation for infants who fail the rescreening. The diagnostic evaluation includes Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE), and middle ear assessment. The course of treatment or therapy and the type of amplification chosen for hearing-impaired infants depends on the type and degree of hearing loss as well as the communication mode chosen by the family. The ultimate goal of early audiological diagnosis of hearing loss is to begin treatment as soon as possible to minimize delays in speech/language and academic development. This article focuses on what needs to happen after newborn hearing screening to ensure early and optimal intervention for hearing-impaired infants.