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Whidbey General to screen newborns' hearing

"Whidbey General Hospital has been awarded a Washington State Department of Health grant to develop a program for early hearing loss screening, diagnosis and intervention. WGH was one of five hospitals to receive the grant. According to Trish Rose of hospital community relations, the grant includes special equipment through which WGH will implement a universal newborn hearing-screening program, coordinated with appropriate audiological and intervention follow-up services. Early intervention agencies that provide services to infants and toddlers with developmental delays, like the Toddler Learning Center, strongly support programs like this, Rose said. They report that many children with hearing difficulties that have gone undiagnosed until later ages (2 to 2 1/2) are very delayed in the receptive skills that are so necessary a foundation for speech and language development. Prevention is the best form of intervention, so those children with early hearing loss receive the appropriate medical attention and/or aids to enable them to hear and process verbal information at this critical time.During the grant application process, the Island County Health Department provided strong support for the initiative, Rose said. Tim McDonald, director of Health Services, noted that the screening will connect children with hearing problems to health providers much earlier. He also said the Health Department would like to partner with Whidbey General to provide services to newborns through their new early intervention program, which will provide one public health nurse home visit to all families with a newborn in Island County.We are very excited to offer this new service to our families, said Whidbey Family Birthplace manager Kathy Ownbey, RNC. We feel it will be of great benefit to all newborns, by connecting those in need to local resources that can help children in their home communities. "

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