Silverman “Catch speech, language, and hearing problems early and it can make a difference between a child learning a sentence and earning one.”—American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), national public service announcement, August 2002

ccording to ASHA, 84% of incarcerated juveniles have communication problems that are most likely related to hearing and speech learning disabilities. The theory is that if the disabilities of these individuals had been detected early in life, then parents and educators (and other professionals) could have addressed them and taken the proper steps to improve their communication skills, as well as their options in life. The analogy equating unrecognized hearing and speech disabilities with a future life of crime is somewhat extreme, but ASHA created its public service announcements with the intent of making a valid point—parents should have their children tested for communication disabilities as early as possible, preferably taking advantage of one of the newborn hearing screening programs available in hospitals nationwide.

Alarming figures released by the National Campaign for Hearing Health indicate that as many as 12,000 infants are born annually in the United States with some type of hearing impairment. In most of these cases, the children have some hearing capacity, that if recognized early, can be addressed with surgery, hearing instruments (such as hearing aids and cochlear implants), and special communication techniques, that are most successful when started early. Sadly, only an estimated 65% of babies are tested at birth, and their hearing impairment can go undetected for several years—often until the child is in school and his or her condition is recognized by an educator, as a result of the student’s poor attention/learning skills.

All children, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Through providing the early detection newborn hearing screening programs for the detection and treatment of infant hearing disorders, we can provide a full-range of lifestyle options for their future.

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Rogena Schuyler Silverman
[email protected]