BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) — Before newborns leave the hospital, they typically have a newborn hearing screening. Some infants won’t pass the hearing tests and will need to go to a facility for a follow-up appointment.
In Kentucky, the early hearing detection and intervention program are run through the Commission for Children with Special Health Needs. However, due to the pandemic, the Commission was not able to safely see patients and they shut down the end of March. They are still not up and running.
“Time is of the essence for kids that truly have hearing loss, so we have to identify them and get them fitted for hearing aids by 6 months,” said Dr. Andrew Ebelhar, Med Center Health ENT.
During this time, Med Center Health ENT recognized the need for follow up appointments to be made possible. Using their diagnostic testing which they were only using in the operating room, Med Center ENT.
implemented and expanded follow up testing at the facility.
“And so we really wanted to try to bridge that gap while typical services weren’t being provided. We really wanted to try to see those infants because there is a critical time period,” said Kelly Daniel, Audiologist at Med Center Health ENT.
Brittany Cooper’s son, Aiden, is four months old and has several health conditions. Cooper says he also has a hard time seeing. He ended up failing his hearing screening test when he was born. Cooper said she wasn’t that concerned because a fail on the first screening isn’t that uncommon.
After several doctor visits, they ended up at Norton Children’s Hospital where he failed another hearing screening test but was unable to get an appointment for a follow-up appointment at the Commission in Bowling Green.
“With the coronavirus and stuff, there’s not a whole lot of to options right now for these babies to be seen, and to hurry up and have the intervention done that needs to happen.”
The new mother never imagined the pandemic would keep the infant from getting treated for his loss of hearing. That was until Med Center Health ENT expanded and implemented the critical follow-up testing for hearing screen among infants.
“If it wasn’t for them getting us in here to take a look at his hearing, he wouldn’t be able to see or hear,” said Cooper.
The office has seen and tested around 40 infants over the past several months.
“The second part of that, if we’re not able to get that diagnostic until ya know, six or nine months of age, then we’re already putting those children behind if a hearing loss does exist,” said Kelly Daniel, an audiologist with Med Center ENT.
So, for the Cooper family, these appointments are more than ‘follow-ups.’ They’re giving little Aiden one of his two senses back that he has lost, and in turn, giving back to his family.
“Either one is devastating, but I can deal pretty one or the other and at least with this, they’re able to get us hooked up for where he can have a hearing aid, and at least hear us and interact more,” said Cooper.
If the infants do need hearing aids, Med Center ENT then helps to direct patients to another facility that handles that.
Once services do open back at the normal Commission facility, Med Center will re-assess the need to continue to offer this service or not.