Victory: Bill providing hearing screenings to children becomes law
DevinMiller, Washington Correspondent
With the 24-hour news cycle dominated by sweeping legislative proposals or large-scale
policy reforms, such as ever-evolving health care discussions, lesser-known bills
often are left out of the national spotlight.
Although these bills may be narrower in scope, their impact on children’s health can
be wide-reaching, and the Academy continues to advocate for their advancement despite
congressional gridlock on other pressing issues.
One such bill is the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act, which was
signed into law in mid-October. It reauthorizes a federal program that provides hearing
screenings for newborns, infants and young children, and ensures those diagnosed with
hearing loss can access appropriate follow-up and intervention services.
The EHDI Act becoming law may not have garnered national news headlines, but as AAP
President Fernando Stein, M.D., FAAP, said in a press statement, it is “a legislative
victory for the youngest among us” and has been championed by the Academy since its
The Academy celebrated the bill’s passage in its statement, as EHDI programs play
a key role in promoting children’s lifelong development and can continue for the next
“The act is so important because it enables states to continue to build on the work
that they have done to universally screen and detect hearing loss in newborns, at
the age when we know that we can ensure the best possible developmental outcomes for
kids,” said Dennis Z. Kuo, M.D., M.H.S., FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Children
with Disabilities Executive Committee.
History of the EHDI Act
Every day, about 33 babies are born with hearing loss, making it the most common congenital
condition in the United States. Infants and children who have undiagnosed hearing
loss are at risk of not receiving the language stimulation they need, which can impact
their development significantly.
The Newborn Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 1999, which later became
a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000, authorized federal funding
for states to develop infant hearing screening and intervention programs.
Congress reauthorized these state grants through the Children's Health Act of 2000.
At that time, only 40% of newborns received hearing screenings. Today, approximately
97% of newborns receive audiologic screenings, ensuring that those diagnosed with
hearing loss have the opportunity to access interventions at a young age.
EHDI functions as a partnership between the Health Resources and Service Administration
and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and every state has its own EHDI
program that works to administer hearing screenings. In fact, there are AAP chapter
champions who focus on EHDI efforts.
Lawmakers passed the EHDI Act in 2010, which authorized the programs through 2015.
Unfortunately, the EHDI Act expired on Sept. 30, 2015, because Congress did not renew
the legislation. Although bills to reauthorize the program had advanced in both the
U.S Senate and U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th Congress, lawmakers
failed to pass them before the new Congress took office.
Most recently, bipartisan legislation was reintroduced in the 115th Congress by Sens.
Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Doris
Matsui (D-Calif.). The Academy has been advocating for its swift advancement and passage
The EHDI Act passed the Senate in early September, and the House passed the bill about
a month later, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump for his signature
Throughout the legislative process, the Academy worked with other partner organizations
and stakeholders to advance the EHDI Act. It also mobilized its grassroots network
of pediatricians to urge Congress to pass the bill without delay.
Beyond advocating for the bill’s passage, the Academy spearheaded efforts to improve
the already successful program. For example, the new law ensures that young children
under 3 years old can access hearing screening programs to help address any late-onset
hearing loss. The original bill covered only infants. The new law also improves access
to appropriate follow-up and intervention services and recognizes the medical home
as central to hearing screening.
With universal hearing screening in place, pediatricians can help ensure families
access the tools and resources they need to best support their child’s development.
Hearing loss is easily detectable, Dr. Kuo explained, but more work can be done to
provide necessary follow-up and intervention, which this law can help to achieve.
As the law enters its implementation phase, the Academy looks forward to the continuation
of these critical programs and stands ready to help ensure all newborns, infants and
young children can access the hearing screenings and interventions that are essential
to their development.