Hearing loss is the most common congenital health concern in the United States.
In the U.S. approximately one in 1,000 newborns is born profoundly deaf. Another 6 out of 1,000 babies are born with partial hearing loss. For infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, the incidence is almost 10 times as high.
Babies born with hearing loss are starting from a point of neurological emergency because they have a limited window of time in which to catch up. They have already missed out on 20 weeks of development of their auditory brain pathways prior to birth, and they continue to miss out on neural development until they are diagnosed and receive amplification and intervention.
Precious Ears was a joint pilot outreach program funded by The Lake Drive Foundation to reach the families of babies who do not pass their newborn hearing screenings and are at risk of falling through the cracks.
Each year an average of 3,800 babies are born at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Paterson. The Precious Ears coordinator visited with new mothers in the hospital to explain newborn hearing screening, then built a partnership assisting with education, referrals, even transportation to ensure the infants who did not pass their initial newborn hearing screenings received the requisite comprehensive audiological evaluations follow up in the first three months.
Since the inception of The Precious Ears Program in May, 2010, the program dramatically increased the follow up by 50%. Today, utilizing experience gained from the Precious Ears model, St. Joseph's Children's Hospital coordinates patient education and follow up screenings through in house professionals. The project also brought to light the need for the hospital to expand its pediatric audiology department to meet the needs of the community.