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New system diagnoses babies with hearing loss

October 20, 2011
By STACEY KUKKONEN - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - Portage Health's audiology department has been recognized by the state of Michigan thanks to a new piece of equipment.

Portage Health earned a certification as an Infant Diagnostic Audiology Center by the Michigan Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program, making it the only recognized center in the Upper Peninsula.

"It means if a baby fails a screening, they can come here to have a full diagnostic test where we're able to see the extent of the hearing loss," said Melissa Collard, an audiologist for Portage Health.

Article Photos

Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Melissa Collard, an audiologist at Portage Health in Hancock, hooks up Janelle Keranen’s newborn baby Lucy to hearing screening equipment Tuesday afternoon. Every baby born is required to have the screening and Portage Health was recently recognized as an Infant Diagnostic Audiology Center by the Michigan Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program.

Right after birth, while a baby is calm and preferably sleeping, the infant is tested for hearing loss using a series of tests. These diagnostic tests have been conducted at the hospital since 2001. In the past, if a baby failed a test done at their local birth center, the parents and child were referred to a recognized diagnostic center, such as downstate Ann Arbor and Milwaukee.

"If you have a newborn baby who fails a screening, it's really upsetting," said Nancy Reed, an audiologist with Portage Health. "Then you would have to wait. There's the expense and the time it takes to travel; it's concerning for a lot of people and it's nice that we can do that here."

About three in every 1,000 babies born are born with some type of hearing ailment, Collard said. It is the most common occurring birth defect, is unexplained and is something that develops in the womb.

The process takes more than an hour and is not painful whatsoever. It's better if a baby sleeps through the process or nurses, so they are calm for an ideal reading, Reed said.

A few instruments are attached to the baby's forehead and the area of the head behind the ears and low-level sounds measure the brain's response.

"It's an electrophysiological test," Reed said. "There are little responses we can detect occurring in the brain stem."

It's state law that every baby born have the screening test done, Collard said. Ninety-eight percent of babies are being screened across the state after birth. If an ailment is detected, the audiology center at Portage Health can fit babies as young as 4 weeks old with hearing aids. The goal is to screen the babies within a month of birth, diagnose with hearing loss by three months and have a hearing aid on in six months.

Reed said the diagnostic testing is paid for by most insurance companies because it's so important to screen children early.

"It makes a huge impact on their progress and their development with speech and language and their brain development," Reed said.

The state of Michigan started screening children in 1997. Being recognized by the state is a huge step for the hospital and they have seen babies from all over the Upper Peninsula now.

"This is just one more thing that make this a great hospital," Collard said. "It's one more service we can provide."



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