The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Rockville, Md, announces a new 5-year national effort to diagnose and provide early intervention services for 90% of children with hearing loss by the time they are 6 months old.

Hearing loss continues to be the most common birth defect in the United States. Nearly a decade ago, slightly more than 20% of US hospitals screened newborns for the condition. In 2000, ASHA set a 5-year goal to provide hearing loss screening for at least 90% of newborns by the time they were 1 month old. That goal was achieved in 2005.

Some objectives of the 5-year initiative include promoting model eligibility criteria for the IDEA Part C program; expanded access to pediatric assistive technology; and model coverage criteria for both public and private insurers.

The announcement of ASHA’s new campaign follows and complements the recent introduction of the Early Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2006 (HR 5250) by Rep James Walsh, R-NY, and 28 co-sponsors that would help further develop and promote early intervention services for children with hearing loss. HR 5250 calls for improved follow-up for newborns who fail the hearing screening; access to appropriate and timely diagnosis and early interventions services; family support programs for children newly identified with hearing loss; and a postdoctoral EHDI fellowship program at the National Institutes of Health