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PA Gov. Schweiker Signs Bill to Provide Free Hearing-Loss Screenings for PA's Newborns

Early Detection of Hearing Impairments Can Lead To Improvements in Child Development

HARRISBURG, Pa./PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker today signed into law a bill that will require all infants to be screened for hearing loss within the first 30 days of birth.

"Every newborn should be able to hear the calming sound of a parent's voice or a sweet lullaby at bedtime," Gov. Schweiker said. "This new law will allow us to identify children with hearing impairments as early as possible. By having newborns undergo a hearing-loss screening, parents will know if their baby needs help to hear -- and then can get the appropriate treatment to ensure their child will lead a fulfilling life."

Every day, 33 babies are born in the United States with permanent hearing loss. That translates into about 400 babies born each year in Pennsylvania with a hearing impairment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites significant hearing loss as one of the most common major abnormalities present at birth. If undetected, it can impede speech, language and cognitive development.

Early identification and appropriate intervention can lead to improvements in speech and language development in affected children, thereby improving the likelihood of positive social, emotional, cognitive and academic development. The National Institutes of Health recommends that infants with hearing loss be diagnosed before three months of age and receive early intervention services no later than six months of age.

Senate Bill 100, sponsored by Sen. Charles Lemmond (R-Luzerne), will make the screenings available at no charge to parents. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will fund the service through grants provided by the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, and the National Early Detection and Intervention Technical Assistance Program. The Health Department also will put a referral system into place for parents who need assistance.

Although the legislation requires a hearing-loss screening for all infants, parents may refuse the service for any reason.

Senate Bill 100 unanimously passed the state Senate and House. This new law takes effect in 90 days.

CONTACT: Kevin Shivers, Deputy Press Secretary of Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, +1-717-783-1116.

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