Hearing loss is the most common birth defect among newborns. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, more than 12,000 babies are born each year with some degree of hearing loss.
"There are a lot of babies who have problems with permanent hearing loss. So then we can provide hearing aids for them, therapy, cochlear implants, alterative language, like ASL," said Beth Prieve, Ph.D, infant hearing specialist and Syracuse University's Gebbie Clinic professor.
Early intervention is key to a child's success. Experts say babies who have hearing loss develop speech and language later. That's why Crouse Hospital and the Gebbie Clinic in Syracuse and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee are partnering in a grant to study newborn hearing loss.
The $3 million grant through the National Institutes of Health, will study newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
"That's where the prevalence of hearing loss is much higher than the well-baby nursery. The problem is, there are babies who have multiple problems, not just hearing problems. So we're trying to untangle which ones are hearing problems, which ones are more neurological problems, which ones are those more temporary hearing problems. How do they look the same? How do they look different?" said Prieve. "Sometimes you have a really difficult time telling whether it's hearing or whether it's some other neurological problem or maybe just delayed development, so that's really what this grant is getting at."
While New York State requires all Newborns have hearing tests before they leave the hospital, this grant will allow researchers to study children up to a year or two after they're born to find out the best interventions and treatments for these high risk children.
"We're not just studying auditory itself but we want to link it with what happens with the kid's language, what happens with the child's overall development and how can these auditory responses help predict what might happen later. It could help us help early interventionists what therapy would be good or just even to know that they need intervention," said Prieve.
The study will include two measurement in the NICU, followed by one to two years of observation.
Researchers are hoping to get nearly 200 Central New York infants in the study.