“Now that he has hearing aids, he can actually hear himself,” said LaShunta Evans about her 4-month-old son, Thomeir Evans.
“When he sneezed before, it was just a regular sneeze. Now, he makes a giant noise just to hear himself!”
After only one week of having hearing aids, Thomeir and his family have noticed the difference.
“When he hears a noise, he turns to hear where it’s coming from,” LaShunta said. “He looks at you when you’re talking to him now.”
Thomeir was referred to the Callier Center after failing his newborn hearing screening in the hospital. At Callier, he was diagnosed with mild to moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, a permanent loss in both ears.
Without hearing aids, Thomeir cannot hear the sound of water dripping, birds chirping or people whispering. Moreover, he cannot hear certain speech sounds and consonants including z, v, p, h, g, ch, k, f, s and th.
“When children don’t have access to these sounds, it affects their speech and language development,” said Dr. Amanda Frost, Thomeir’s audiologist. “If they are not able to hear the sounds, then they cannot learn to produce them.”
Without treatment, infants with hearing loss suffer from auditory deprivation. The lack of sound causes the auditory nerves and speech processing areas of the brain to atrophy.
“Even if you put hearing aids on later, the child may continue to have problems understanding words, because the brain has already rewired itself due to auditory deprivation,” said Dr. Andrea Gohmert, director of audiology clinical operations.
According to Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) 1-3-6 national guidelines, a baby should receive a hearing screening at birth or prior to their first month of life. Infants who do not pass the screening should receive a diagnostic evaluation before 3 months, and when necessary, should receive early intervention by 6 months. In 2019, the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) specified that states who meet the 1-3-6 benchmark should strive to meet a 1-2-3 month timeline.
Thomeir received his hearing aids from the Callier Center at 3 months old — three months earlier than the 1-3-6 guidelines and on par with the JCIH goal. However, Callier aims to fit babies for hearing aids even earlier with the help of the Oberkotter Foundation.
“We envision a world where infants receive hearing aids within the first weeks of life,” said Bruce Rosenfield, executive director and trustee of the Oberkotter Foundation. “We are excited to partner with the Callier Center to ensure that newborns with hearing loss across the country may begin life with the same opportunities as typical hearing children.”
The Oberkotter Foundation has awarded nearly $400,000 in grant funding to support Callier’s Early Intervention for Infant Hearing Loss Project.
In Texas, 51% of infants that fail their newborn hearing screenings do not receive early intervention treatment — one of the worst rates in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The initial goal of Callier’s Early Intervention Project is to move North Texas towards a 98% early intervention rate for infants who need hearing and speech-language services by or before 6 months of age. The aspirational goal is to put hearing aids on babies within the first month, thereby implementing a gold standard of care that serves as a model for systemic change across the nation.
“Now that he has hearing aids, he can actually hear himself.”
– LaShunta Evans
I would like to learn more about pediatric hearing evaluations.