Parul Bhatia, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, remembers the patient well. The girl was 3 years old and profoundly deaf. Even though she had failed a hearing test at birth, she hadn’t been treated for hearing loss.
Currently, children are only screened at birth and again just before entering kindergarten. Bhatia launched a study to see if there was a way to bridge that gap. In the three-year study, local children were tested during routine pediatric visits. Of nearly 2,000 children screened, 10% failed initial screening in at least one ear and five had permanent hearing loss.
“These are critical years for language and communication development,” Bhatia said. If the hearing loss isn’t found until the child is 4 or 5 years old, she said, “it is much harder to catch up at that point.”