October 03, 2017

House Passes Portman-Kaine Bill to Promote Early Hearing Detection in Newborns, Infants & Young Children

Bipartisan Bill Now Ready to Be Signed Into Law By The President

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, today announced that the House of Representatives passed their bipartisan Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, legislation that will reauthorize current research and improve public health programs for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children. The Senate passed the bill on September 6, 2017.  The measure is now headed to the president’s desk for his signature.

Early hearing detection is critical because children with hearing loss often fall behind their peers in speech development, cognitive skills, and social skills,” said Portman. “This bill takes important steps to improve early hearing detection and intervention for newborns, infants, and young children. I am pleased my House colleagues acted quickly on this important legislation, and I urge the president to sign it into law.”

This bill will help kids by strengthening health programs that can detect, diagnose, and address hearing loss. I’m proud we were able to get our bipartisan bill passed by Congress so it can start making a difference in the lives of families in Virginia.” Kaine said.  “I was glad to join Senator Portman on this important piece of legislation and look forward to the President swiftly signing this into law.”

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is pleased that the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) legislation has passed in the House and Senate and is headed to the president’s desk,” said ASHA President Gail Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP. “We are grateful for the efforts of Senators Portman and Kaine as well as Congressmen Guthrie and Matsui in promoting this legislation. The EHDI program has been successful in ensuring hearing screening at birth for more than 97 percent of all newborns. This legislation will build on the success of the program and place more emphasis on ensuring that those identified with a hearing loss receive the care they need.”

NOTE: The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act reauthorizes current research and public health activities related to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns and infants. In addition, to ensure the continued success of existing early hearing detection and intervention programs, the bill makes a number of key improvements. Specifically, this bill expands early hearing detection and intervention programs to include young children, improves access to appropriate follow-up and intervention services when hearing loss is identified, and clarifies the roles of the Centers for Disease Control and the Health Resources and Services Administration.  Specifically, this legislation:

·       Authorizes development of programs for hearing screening of newborns, infants, and young children;

·       Authorizes prompt evaluation and diagnosis of children referred from screening programs;

·       Provides for educational, audiological, and medical interventions for children confirmed to be deaf or hard-of-hearing;

·       Allows education and medical models to ensure that newborns, infants, and young children who are identified through hearing screening receive follow up by qualified early intervention providers, qualified health care providers, or pediatric medical homes; and

·       Continues research and development for early hearing detection and intervention, including development of technologies and clinical studies of screening methods.

A wide variety of groups support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Cochlear Implant Alliance, the American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Hands and Voices, Schools for the Deaf, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, and AG Bell.