marion downs audiology

Marion Downs: Still influencing Newborn Hearing Screening

Most audiologists know Dr. Marion Downs and her contributions to the field of audiology, especially in pediatric audiology.  At the time of her passing at age 100 in 2014, 97% of all babies born in the United States were screened for hearing.  Some of us were her students, others were collaborative researchers, but all of us were admirers of a great career and offered tributes.  

Still Influencing Newborn Hearing Screening

Dr. Marion Downs facilitated the concepts and research studies behind early intervention from the 1970s to the eventual 1993 recommendation by the National Institutes of Health for the development of newborn hearing screening programs within each of the United States.  The influence of pioneering work of Dr. Downs and her legacy of pediatric audiologists are still affecting the lives of infants and young children in that President Trump on October 18, 2017 signed into law S. 652 the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act (PL 115-71). The new law amends the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize until 2022 a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Three HHS agencies—the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—will continue a long-standing partnership to coordinate and advance a national program for the early identification and diagnosis of hearing loss and intervention services for deaf and hard-of-hearing newborns and infants. In addition, the law authorizes specific changes to the federal program, such as expanding the program to include young children who are at risk of losing their hearing during childhood from infection, harmful noise exposure, or genetic causes.   Who says that nothing ever gets done in Washington! 

Colorado Woman’s Hall of Fame —The Video

While Marion was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006, her life story video produced by Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame was just aired February 1, 2018 aired on Rocky Mountain PBS.  The video stars Marion, of course, but features some narratives from Colorado audiologists that worked with Marion over the years. Perspectives from Dr. Jerry Northern, her clinical/research colleague and coauthor for many years at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver, Dr. Christy Yoshinaga-Itano, a fellow researcher at the University of Colorado, and Dr. Sandy Gabbard, the Director of the Marion Downs Center in Denver, Colorado. 

The video is 24 minutes long and well worth a view… may find out some things about the “Mother of Pediatric Audiology” that you did not know previously.  Most of all, the video is an inspiration to us all to stay focused on the innovations, concepts and technologies that we believe in…..even if a career begins by going to the shortest registration line.  To access the video, click here or on the Great Colorado Women Picture. 


Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (2018).  Marion Downs, the Mother of Pediatric Audiology.  Enchanted Road Productions.  Retrieved March 4, 2018.

Northern, J. (2018).  Personal communication. March 1, 2018



About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.