Newborn hearing screening among top advances in public health

ATLANTA—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has selected the dramatic expansion of newborn screening for hearing loss in the U.S. as part of one of the 10 greatest public health achievements in public health in the past decade the area of Maternal and Infant Health.

A report issued in the May 20 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) <> assessed advances in public health during the first 10 years of the 21st century. Public health scientists at CDC were asked to nominate noteworthy public health achievements that occurred in the United States during 2001–2010. From those nominations, 10 achievements, not ranked in any order, were summarized in this report.

One of the 10 areas of important progress selected was Maternal and Infant Health. In that category, reaching the goal of nearly universal screening for hearing loss in newborns was one of the specific advances cited for its importance.

According to the report, the percentage of newborns screened for hearing loss more than doubled in 9 years, from 46.5% of the babies born in 1999 to 96.9% of those born in 2008. In addition, the percentage of infants not passing their hearing screening who were then diagnosed by an audiologist before age 3 months as either normal or having permanent hearing loss increased from 51.8% in 1999 to 68.1% in 2008.