December 13, 2007

RICHMOND, Va — Virginia Commonwealth University will use a federal grant to determine how disabilities that are present at birth affect how physicians identify, evaluate and treat hearing loss in infants and young children.

"Virginia and other states have made progress in recent years in detecting hearing loss early in infants through their Early Hearing Detection and Intervention programs," said Kathleen B. Lynch, Ph.D., senior research associate with the VCU School of Education’s Partnership for People with Disabilities. "But as many as 40 percent of these children may have additional health problems, and confirming a diagnosis and starting treatment for hearing loss may take a back seat to treatment of more obvious medical conditions."

Each year, about 100 children in Virginia are born with hearing loss. The two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund a research project that will result in a statewide picture of the number of children born with both hearing loss and other disabilities. Researchers also will assess the impact of hearing loss and other disabilities on the child and the family.

It will be implemented collaboratively by the Partnership for People with Disabilities and the Virginia Department of Health.

“This award is an important milestone in our efforts to understand how having an additional disability at birth affects the way that a child’s hearing loss is evaluated and treated, and how that information can be used to improve services and programs,” says Fred Orelove, PhD, executive director of the Partnership for People with Disabilities.

Research studies of children with hearing loss typically have excluded those who have additional health problems, such as endocrine, metabolic and immune disorders.

The study sample will include approximately 600 children born between 2001 and 2006.

Objectives include:

  • Describing the sociodemographic characteristics of the children and their families, and their history with regard to screening, evaluation, diagnosis, intervention and related follow-up.
  • Identifying challenges faced by families of children with hearing loss and additional disabilities, as compared to children with only hearing loss.
  • Understanding the impact of having a child with hearing loss and additional disabilities.

Source: The Insider