Hearing loss is the most commonly diagnosed condition in newborn children. In all 50 states, including Minnesota, hearing screening programs exist to ensure hearing loss in infants is identified shortly after birth. This is crucial because children develop the most basic language and communication skills in the first 6 months of life. If a child with hearing impairments goes undiagnosed until later, even at one or two years of age, they may suffer permanent impairments to speech, language and cognitive ability.
Last year, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) re-evaluated its existing screening program and ultimately improved follow-up services for infants with hearing loss. The Newborn Screening Long Term Follow-up Unit at MDH developed standard operating procedures, clarified staff roles and responsibilities, reduced duplication of effort, and increased the accuracy and completeness of data collected during screening. This helped the team ensure critical follow-up services were provided to impacted children and their families in a timely fashion.
So far, the overall wait time for families in need of follow-up services has been reduced on average from 74 days to 33 days, and the improved process has ensured families are connected with the targeted services that they need. In the first days of a child’s life, that time and attention to detail are of the utmost importance.