Dear Abby

Today’s Dear Abby column addresses deaf infants and testing. I agree that the sooner you detect a child’s hearing loss, the better. My parents figured it out when I was about six months old based on their experience with my two older siblings. If I could rewind time, I’d make today’s implant available when I was a baby.
The complete column follows in case the link becomes invalid in the near future.

DEAR ABBY: A professional nanny in Ohio agonized over whether to tell the mother of twins in her care that one of them might be hearing-impaired. You advised her to notify the mother immediately, and that the children’s pediatrician should be told during their next scheduled visit.
I am a pediatrician and a trustee at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Massachusetts. Although I agree with your advice to speak to the infant’s mother, please let your readers know that there is some urgency involved. Infants should be screened at birth. If deaf infants receive hearing aids and appropriate therapy before 6 months of age, they have a good chance at normal speech and language development.
After 1 year of age, the chances for normal development begin to diminish. If any caregiver suspects hearing loss in an infant, that child’s hearing should be tested as soon as possible.
Concerned Pediatrician, Northampton, Mass.
DEAR CONCERNED: Thank you for your informative letter. I was not aware that the timing was critical. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of two hearing-impaired children. I have struggled to get our government representatives to understand the value of early detection and push to make it a law for all newborns to be tested. Hearing impairment can be detected while the child is still in the womb, and Crib-o-Grams can detect the impairment before the child leaves the hospital. – Been There, Done That in Michigan
DEAR B.T.D.T.: I’m sure many parents will be interested to know that prenatal testing can be done. Thank you.


  1. Let’s not forget the other side as well. Early detection of hearing loss, which should motivate parents to learn signs as well. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are not always effective, especially if the deaf child has absolutely NO hearing.

    • Alicia on January 7, 2005 at 4:29 pm
    • Reply

    For upper- and middle-class families, early testing is a very good thing. But there’s a downside: studies are showing that labeling an infant as deaf can result in the infant being neglected, especially if the family is of lower socioeconomic status. The family may view the infant as inferior or as a divine punishment (especially if they originate from a country with those cultural values) or they may just feel hopeless and not bother.
    This means the infant rarely gets picked up, is not talked to, and in is general ignored. If the parents had gone home from the hospital thinking the infant was hearing, at least they would have had the chance to develop a bond that might withstand the devastating news of the deafness. But because of the early identification, not only is the child denied much-needed tools to live with deafness, the child also faces the horrid consequences of neglect. It’s very sad.
    I’m still all for early testing, but I think more people need to be aware of the pitfalls and work to address those issues. (Mandatory early intervention programs perhaps?) Waiting for the school systems to discover the neglect at age 5 is way too late.

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