"An Act relating to establishing a screening, tracking, and intervention program related to the hearing ability of newborns and infants; providing an exemption to licensure as an audiologist for certain persons performing hearing screening; relating to insurance coverage for newborn and infant hearing screening; and providing for an effective date. "
"Statistics show that in Alaska, 30 to 40 babies are born a year with some type of congenital hearing defect."
- Rep. Ramras
Hearing impairment has been shown to be the most common disability in newborns, affecting about 3 in every 1,000 babies. House Bill 109 will protect newborns in the State of Alaska by mandating that newborns receive hearing screening at birth, or within thirty days of birth if not born in a hospital. Once at risk infants have been identified, this bill will then serve to assist parents of at risk children with appropriate, available follow-up care. Finally, the Department of Health and Social Services shall prepare an annual report to the Governor detailing the program's needs and success.
Statistics show that in Alaska, 30 to 40 babies are born a year with some type of congenital hearing defect. Further studies have shown that children with hearing impairment not detected at birth, will not be detected, until 2-3 years of age, and that the most critical period for speech and language development is from birth to three years of age. When children are not identified and served early, special education for a child with a hearing loss may cost an additional $420,000, and deafness has an estimated lifetime cost of approximately $1 million per individual. These savings in special education costs will pay for universal newborn hearing screening many times over.
As of December 2003, 80% of newborns in Alaska have been screened for hearing impairment. Even though 80% sounds like a large number, because newborn hearing screening is not mandated and the screening, reporting, and follow-up is not institutional in facilities across the state, Alaska remains in the "unsatisfactory" category when rated nationally.