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ASHA Pushes for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Funds

Coalition Sends Letter to Members of Congress

ROCKVILLE, MD - May 6, 2004 - The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), along with 34 other organizations, is asking Congress to support funding of $20 million in fiscal year (FY) 2005 for the early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) programs of the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD).

The impact of delayed detection and intervention can last a lifetime. When hearing loss is found early, intervention and treatment can produce dramatic improvements in child speech and language development by school age. States need greater federal assistance to help initiate appropriate screening, follow-up services and tracking programs.

The signatories of the letter urge Congress to support critical health programs in the FY 2005 Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill, including:

  • Appropriate $10 million for the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program of the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) to assist states in screening and follow-up services;
  • Appropriate $10 million for the National Center on Birth defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to assist states with the tracking, surveillance, quality assurance and cost effectiveness in EHDI programs; and
  • Encourage the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to expand its EHDI clinical research.

"We are very proud of the dramatic increase in newborn hearing screenings in the United States since the turn of the century - from roughly 20% in 1998 to 90% this year," said Larry Higdon, ASHA president. "However, there is still much that needs to be done, given that only about half of those infants diagnosed with hearing loss are enrolled in an early intervention program by six months of age."

Higdon added, "Without these federal grants, a majority of the state EHDI programs will collapse, tremendously setting back our recent gains to ensure that every American newborn child has an equal chance to reach his or her full potential."

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 114,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech, language and swallowing problems.

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For more information, contact Mona Thomas at 301-897-0156 (mthomas@asha.org) or Renee Hockaday at 301-897-7351 (rhockaday@asha.org).

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