WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation – the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act – to reauthorize current research and improve public health programs for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children.  Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) have introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives.

“Early hearing detection is critical because children with hearing loss often fall behind their peers in speech development, cognitive skills, and social skills,” said Portman.  “This bill takes important steps to improve early hearing detection and intervention for newborns, infants, and young children, and I’m hopeful we can move this legislation quickly in a strong bipartisan way.”

“The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act reauthorizes and improves critical programs that ensure we are properly diagnosing and treating hearing loss in newborns, infants and young children. Access to these services meets an important public health need for families in Virginia and across the country. We know that early intervention means improved outcomes, and our bill will benefit the families of hard-of-hearing children who rely on these services,” Kaine said.

NOTE: The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act reauthorizes current research and public health activities related to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns and infants. In addition, to ensure the continued success of existing early hearing detection and intervention programs, the bill makes a number of key improvements. Specifically, this bill expands early hearing detection and intervention programs to include young children, improves access to appropriate follow-up and intervention services when hearing loss is identified, and clarifies the roles of the Centers for Disease Control and the Health Resources and Services Administration.  Specifically, this legislation:

·         Authorizes development of programs for hearing screening of newborns, infants, and young children;

·         Authorizes prompt evaluation and diagnosis of children referred from screening programs;

·         Provides for educational, audiological, and medical interventions for children confirmed to be deaf or hard-of-hearing;

·         Allows education and medical models to ensure that newborns, infants, and young children who are identified through hearing screening receive follow up by qualified early intervention providers, qualified health care providers, or pediatric medical homes; and

·         Continues research and development for early hearing detection and intervention, including development of technologies and clinical studies of screening methods.

A wide variety of groups support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Cochlear Implant Alliance, the American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Hands and Voices, Schools for the Deaf, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, and AG Bell.

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