The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Rockville, Md, is calling upon New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to reverse his administration’s decision to cancel routine public school hearing screenings, according to a statement released by the organization.

On September 30, ASHA President Sue T. Hale, MCD, sent Bloomberg a letter urging him to restore the screenings, which were cancelled following a recommendation by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that was then accepted by its Department of Education.

Hearing screenings are no longer taking place. Hale noted that the decision to stop them stems from old, outdated information, notably a 1996 report by the US Preventative Services Task Force that appears to have relied on what were then 15-year-old recommendations from the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examinations, says the statement.

"It is at best disingenuous that the Bloomberg Administration is utilizing antiquated references for the purpose of cancelling the hearing program for school-age children in New York City," Hale wrote. She added that "because of this decision, thousands of New York City schoolchildren are now at a serious health risk," while New Yorkers "could face years of bearing unnecessary health, educational, and social costs," the statement says.

As of October 20, the Bloomberg Administration had not responded to Hale’s letter.

As that letter reported, ASHA projects that approximately 60,000 schoolchildren in New York City public schools have mild or unilateral hearing loss. Without proper identification, attention, and care, they can struggle in important ways, including academically and socially, says the statement.

School-based hearing screenings are critical to identifying such students, according to ASHA. Hearing screening for school-age children is strongly supported by leading children’s health and hearing experts; in addition to ASHA, they include the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources Services Administration, the National Institute On Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Education Audiology Association, says the statement.

The decision by New York City is completely counter to New York State law, which requires the boards of education to provide "…hearing screening to all students within six months of admission to the school and in grades kindergarten, 1,3, 5, 7, and 10, and at any other time deemed necessary."

Thus, we urge Mayor Bloomberg to act quickly to restore the hearing screenings by overturning a decision that is not at all in the best interests of many of New York City’s youngest, most vulnerable residents," Hale is quoted as having said.

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 135,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.

[Source: ASHA]