Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention (UNHSI)
What is the purpose of the program?
- To ensure that all Georgia newborns are screened for hearing loss at
birth and that newborns not passing hearing screening receive timely
- To educate parents and other infant caregivers with specific information
about the importance of newborn hearing screening and recommended follow-up
for all Georgia newborns who do not pass newborn hearing screening or who
pass newborn hearing screening with risk factors for hearing loss.
What does the program do?
Along with the Newborn Metabolic Screening Program and Children 1st, the
UNHSI Program maintains and supports a comprehensive, coordinated, statewide
screening and referral system. UNHSI includes screening for hearing loss in the
birthing hospital; referral of those who do not pass the hospital screening for
rescreening; for newborns who do not pass the rescreening referral for
diagnostic audiological evaluation; and, linkage to appropriate intervention for
those babies diagnosed with hearing loss. Technical assistance and training
about implementing and maintaining a quality newborn hearing screening program
is provided to hospitals, primary care physicians, audiologists, early
interventionists, and public health staff.
How many people are helped by the program?
Approximately 300 to 400 newborns a year are expected to be identified with
permanent hearing loss and linked to intervention services including
amplification if appropriate. During FY 2000, less than 50% of newborns were
screened for hearing loss. During FY 2010, 96% of newborns were screened for
hearing loss prior to hospital discharge, close to 140,000 babies.
Why is the program important?
The most crucial period for language development is the first year of life.
Without newborn screening, hearing loss is typically not identified until two
years of age. Universal screening for all newborns prior to discharge from the
hospital or birthing center is essential for the earliest possible
identification of hearing loss and, consequently, for language, communication,
educational and reading potential to be maximized.
Who is eligible?
All Georgia newborns.
Where are services located?
As of 2012, 86 of the 87 birthing facilities in Georgia are regularly
screening newborns for hearing loss prior to hospital discharge.
- At least 95% of all Georgia newborns will be screened for hearing loss
prior to discharge from birthing facilities.
- Infants not passing the initial hearing screening receive a repeat
screening prior to 1 month of age and infants not passing rescreening
receive appropriate diagnostic audiological evaluation before three months
- Infants with confirmed hearing loss are referred to appropriate
intervention (i.e., Georgia PINES, Babies Canít Wait, Childrenís Medical
Services) by six months of age.
Legislative authority: O.C.G.A. 31-1-3.2