New state regulations just went into effect requiring every birthing facility in Alaska provide a newborn hearing screening within one month of birth.
The goal is for any child who shows signs of hearing loss to be diagnosed within three months and begin receiving intervention services within six months, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
As many as 30 babies are born in Alaska every year with some level of hearing loss.
"Prior to this type of testing, many children with hearing loss weren't diagnosed until they were 3 years old, with their language development already falling behind," said Beth Kaplan, Early Detection and Intervention program manager for the state.
"Children can be fitted with hearing aids within the first months of life," Kaplan added. "If parents aren't told the results of their infant's hearing screening, they need to ask."
Bartlett Regional Hospital started infant screening for hearing loss about four years ago, and new actions won't be required to meet the regulations, which went into effect Thursday, because the hospital anticipated them, said spokeswoman Michelle Casey.
Parents also can watch for simple signs to help them recognize if their child's hearing and speech are developing normally, according to the state department.
For more information on newborn hearing screening, visit www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/wcfh/screening_testing.htm.