HIA’s “Hearing On the Hill” Brings Hearing Care to the Capitol
The Hearing Industries Assn (HIA) and 14 of its member companies, along with 11 allied organizations, brought the cause of hearing healthcare to Capitol Hill on May 22. Over 300 people—including 12 legislators and more than 70 hill staffers—were treated to the third “Hearing on the Hill” (HOTH) event, which featured information on the latest in hearing-related technology, as well as educational materials and actual hearing screening. Additionally, HIA members held over 30 individual meetings with elected officials and aides to discuss issues relevant to the hearing healthcare industry.

Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) co-chair of HOTH, sparked the success of the event from the outset. The Senator took time to meet with members and to speak at length during the media briefing. Senator Coleman noted in his remarks that he was one of the “baby boomers” who would most likely need hearing aids in the future. In his youth, Coleman had been a roadie for a rock band and was exposed to high levels of sound for an extended period of time. Fortunately, the Senator passed his hearing screening, which was conducted by David Fabry, PhD, of Phonak. Senator Coleman urged HIA members to “make some noise” while they were on Capitol Hill.

The HOTH reception in honor of the co-chairs of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (CHHC) that followed the day’s events featured comments of the three CHHC co-chairs, a bi-partisan group consisting of Members of Congress committed to the support of hearing health issues. Congressional Representatives Jim Walsh (R-NY), Lois Capps (D-CA), and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), each spoke at the reception and explained their hopes that the hearing industry continues to progress. To show the hearing community’s appreciation, HIA Chairman Jerry Ruzicka presented a tribute to each of the co-chairs.

Adapted from the Hearing Industries Assn. for “Hearing on the Hill” Fact Sheet

Adults and Hearing Health Care

  • 28 million (need to be) served: One in ten (28 million) Americans has a hearing loss. As baby boomers reach retirement age starting in 2010, this number is expected to rapidly climb and nearly double by the year 2030.
  • 1 in 3 seniors: The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age—up to 1 in 3 for those over age 65. Most hearing losses develop over a period of 25-30 years.
  • Third most-prevalent disability among seniors: Among seniors, hearing loss is the third most prevalent, but treatable disabling condition, behind arthritis and hypertension.
  • Hearing aids are usually the answer: The vast majority of Americans (95%) with hearing loss have their hearing loss treated with hearing aids. Only 5% of hearing loss in adults can be improved through medical or surgical treatment.

Children and Hearing Loss

  • #1 birth defect: Every day in the US, approximately 1 in 1,000 newborns (or 33 babies every day) is born profoundly deaf, and another 2-3 out of 1,000 babies are born with partial hearing loss, making hearing loss the number-one birth defect in America. Newborn hearing loss is 20 times more prevalent than phenylketonuria (PKU), a condition for which all newborns are currently screened.
  • Not readily apparent in infants: Of the 12,000 babies in the United States born annually with some form of hearing loss, only half exhibit a risk factor—meaning that if only high-risk infants are screened, half of the infants with some form of hearing loss will not be tested and identified. In actual implementation, risk-based newborn hearing screening programs identify only 10-20% of infants with hearing loss. When hearing loss is detected beyond the first few months of life—the most critical period for stimulating the auditory pathways to hearing centers of the brain—significantly delays in speech and language development can occur.
  • Only two-thirds of babies screened for hearing loss: Only 69% of babies are now screened for hearing loss before 1 month of age (up from only 22% in 1998). Of the babies screened, only 56% who needed diagnostic evaluations actually received them by 3 months of age. Moreover, only 53% of those diagnosed with hearing loss were enrolled in early intervention programs by 6 months of age. As a result, these children tend to later re-emerge in our schools’ special education (IDEA, Part B) programs.
  • Million-dollar babies: When children are not identified and do not receive early intervention, special education for a child with hearing loss costs schools an additional $420,000, and has a lifetime cost of approximately $1 million per individual.

Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) Recommendations

  • All newborns should be screened: The Joint Committee on Infant Hearing and U.S. Public Health Service’s Healthy People 2010 health objectives recommend that all newborns be screened for hearing loss by 1 month of age, have diagnostic follow-up by 3 months, and receive appropriate intervention services by 6 months of age. Additionally, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Panel in 1993 recommended hearing screening of all newborns. The consensus report concluded that the best opportunity for achieving this goal is provided by the development of hearing screening programs for newborns in hospital nurseries or in birthing centers, prior to discharge.
  • Detection and treatment make a difference: Recent clinical studies indicate that early detection of hearing loss followed with appropriate intervention minimizes the need for extensive habilitation during the school years and therefore reduces the burden on the IDEA Part B program. In contrast, a 30-year Gallaudet study revealed that half of the children with hearing loss graduate from high school with a 4th grade reading level or less.