All infants are screened for hearing impairment prior to hospital discharge.
Hearing impairment is the most common disability at birth. Every year, nearly 24,000 babies are born in the United States with hearing impairments.
For children not screened for hearing loss at birth, the average age of identification is approximately 14 months, well after the most critical period for language development has passed. Many people do not realize that hearing aids and therapy are available for infants as soon as they are a few weeks old.
Research shows that infants whose hearing impairment is identified at birth have a greater opportunity to develop within the normal range of language comprehension, verbal expression, and psycho-social development, than do children identified with the problem later.
The ALGO Newborn Hearing Screener tests the baby's entire hearing pathway, from the ear to the brainstem. It records the baby's brainwave responses to a series of soft clicks and compares them to a pattern of normal responses.
The noninvasive test is conducted while the baby sleeps and takes about four to seven minutes. Parents have the results prior to discharge from the hospital.
With the ability to identify those infants who are hearing impaired, staff can quickly provide the appropriate medical, audiological and educational follow-up to give these newborns the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.
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In Wisconsin, a parent may confidentially hand over her unharmed newborn, up to 3 days old, to any hospital employee, EMT or police professional in the state without fear of prosecution. This law, commonly known as the "safe haven law" or Wisconsin Act 2, went into effect in April 2001.
"If a mother has hidden or denied her pregnancy, she may panic when the baby comes. We can’t risk that newborn's life," says Terry Walsh, executive director of Safe Place for Newborns. "There's an option to unsafe abandonment."
Under Wisconsin's law, a parent can go to any hospital employee, tell him/her that she wants to leave the baby with Safe Place for Newborns and she won’t have to fear that police will be called, Walsh explained. The newborn will be given any needed medical attention and then be placed in foster care for adoption.