The Associated Press
COLUMBUS - Hearing tests for all newborns already are making a difference by getting treatment started early, according to hospitals who started the testing a year before the state requires.
Ohio hospitals must screen all infants for possible hearing problems by June 30, under a 2002 law.
Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss said 21 of the 124 hospitals affected by the requirement are meeting the guidelines, and another 19 have submitted plans.
Numbers aren't yet available on how many problems are being diagnosed, but those who treat children for hearing loss say they're pleased so far.
Ann Wheat, an audiologist with the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, said hospital screening programs have sent 35 newborns with hearing problems for treatment through the first nine months of this year, up from fewer than 30 in all of 2002.
"I suspect a lot of those babies are a direct result of the universal screening," she said.
"If we can get hold of these babies now and get them identified, then we are so far ahead of the game."
Medical organizations, audiologists and others have long urged more testing of newborns, saying it would give them a better chance of helping before the hearing loss affects speech development.
"We've found that if we can identify and fit a child with hearing aids by 4 months of age, we can make a significant difference," said Cindy Creek, clinical coordinator of speech pathology and audiology at Mount Carmel West Hospital in Columbus.
The number of infants being screened and evaluated for hearing loss tripled from 1999 to 2001, according to figures the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday.
But follow-up treatment remained low, medical officials said.
Hearing problems occur in one to three newborns out of 1,000, the CDC said.
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