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Newborn hearing screening programs may benefit from the standardization of testing protocols

limited number of the major genetic and environmental causes of hearing loss."

According to Nance, who has been studying genetic deafness for more than 30 years, identifying the actual cause of the deafness can be just as important as detecting the hearing loss. He said that data from genetic testing would provide a powerful supplement to audiologic testing that could greatly improve the overall effectiveness of these programs.

In 1964, Marion Downes, a distinguished audiologist, first showed that profound deafness could be recognized in newborn infants by painstaking observations of their response to sounds. Since that time, advances in technology now allow the automated screening of infants by trained technicians. At the same time, dramatic advances have been made in understanding the causes of deafness.

In addition to many environmental causes of deafness, researchers have identified more than 100 genes that are linked to deafness. Nance said that approximately 50 percent to 60 percent of childhood hearing loss in developed countries is due to genetic factors.

Hearing is essential for the normal acquisition of speech. According to Nance, if oral or sign language is not acquired during a critical developmental stage, deaf children may never achieve their full developmental potential. Other studies have indicated that early detection of hearing loss and intervention can improve the educational and social outcomes of these newborns.


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Contact: Sathya Achia-Abraham
sbachia@vcu.edu
804-827-0890
Virginia Commonwealth University
17-May-2006


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