May 5, 2008

On April 3, the Tennessee State House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass a bill mandating that all children born in the state be screened for hearing loss with any costs associated with screenings covered by health insurance providers. The measure had already passed the State Senate in March. Tennessee Gov Phil Bredesen signed HB 2753/SB 3191 into law April 21, 2008. The law will become effective July 1, 2008.

 Tennessee’s action comes on the heels of the House’s approval of The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2008, a reauthorization of the federal government’s landmark Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. Currently, only 44 states have legislation in place for newborn hearing screening.

Michelle Puryear, an AG Bell member and parent advocate whose daughter, Claire, is profoundly deaf, worked in conjunction with local state agencies and advocacy groups for 18 months to push this legislation. Puryear’s daughter was not screened at birth and was diagnosed with a hearing loss at 5 months. She committed to not letting another child be “missed” at birth. State legislators amended the bill to officially be named “Claire’s Law” after her daughter.

“We are just thrilled to know that we played a small part in getting this legislation passed,” Puryear wrote on her Web site, “It has been a long road and lots of hard work but well worth it.”