The current status of EHDI programs in the United States



The importance of identifying congenital hearing loss during the first few months of life has been recognized for almost 60 years. Unfortunately, until more effective newborn hearing screening equipment and procedures were developed in the late 1980s, it was not practical to implement programs for identifying hearing loss during the first few months of life. This paper reviews the activities implemented by the federal government in the last 15 years to promote more effective Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs, and summarizes legislation passed by states related to universal newborn hearing screening. In surveys conducted in 1998 and 2001, State EHDI Coordinators were asked to rate the degree to which various issues were obstacles to implementing effective EHDI programs. The most serious obstacles are the shortage of qualified pediatric audiologists, inadequate reimbursement for screening and diagnosis, and lack of knowledge among primary health care providers about EHDI issues. Opposition to EHDI programs by hospital administrators was rated substantially lower in 2001 than in 1998. State EHDI Coordinators were also surveyed about how well their EHDI program is addressing issues related to screening, diagnosis, early intervention, linkages to medical home providers, tracking and data management, and family support programs. Although substantial progress has been made, many gaps remain with current EHDI programs. MRDD Research Reviews 2003;9:79–88. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.