Our colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) note that screening for hearing loss should begin very early in infancy, not later than the first month of life. Infants who do not pass this initial screening should have a comprehensive audiological examination not later than at three months of age. And interventions should begin by age six months, from appropriate professionals with expertise in hearing loss and deafness in infants and young children. Even infants who pass the initial screening should have the development of their communication skills evaluated at their well-baby visits starting by two months of age.
The importance of early screening for hearing issues was noted in a recent New York Times article by long-time health writer Jane Brody, who looked at the amazing technological advances in recent years that have enabled most children born with hearing loss to hear, speak, and learn together with children without hearing difficulties, albeit with extensive speech and language training and lots of hard work. The article notes that a new documentary, "The Listening Project"demonstrates the impact of technology, specifically cochlear implants, on the hearing impaired. The trailer for this film is quite compelling to watch.
Vision screening also should begin in infancy. The AAP guidelines note:
- All babies should have their eyes checked for infections, defects, cataracts, or glaucoma before leaving the hospital. This is especially true for premature babies, babies who were given oxygen for an extended period, and babies with multiple medical problems. Another group warranting special consideration are babies with family histories of vision difficulties.
- By six months of age - As part of each well-child visit, eye health, vision development, and alignment of the eyes should be checked.
- Starting at about one year - Photo screening devices can be used to start detecting potential eyes problems.
- At 3-4 years - Eyes and vision should be checked for any abnormalities that may cause problems with later development.
- At five years and older - Vision in each eye should be checked separately every year. If a problem is found during routine eye exams, a child should see a pediatric ophthalmologist.