The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program saw more than 50 ear, nose, and throat (ENT) evaluations and completed over 20 surgeries at Majuro hospital this week. The team started a five-day screening last Saturday following their visit to Ebeye, which was very productive, says EHDI principal investigator Ray Miner.
The EHDI runs on a US federal grant administered by the University of Hawaii. The team screens young children and babies primarily, but has also seen a few adults referred by the hospital’s medical staff. Families bring in their children from outer islands as well for screening or follow up evaluations. In Ebeye the team was able to identify three newborn babies with very little, if any, hearing ability.
“Research shows that if we can get hearing aids and early intervention within the first three years of life, children will develop fairly well,” Miner commented. Outreach work is important in bringing families in to receive EHDI services and to teach adults how to communicate with their children who have hearing difficulties through verbal or sign language, he added.
The main objective of the EHDI program is to get all babies through an initial screening, within 24 hours of birth. When a baby does not pass this screening, they will go through a re-screening, which may lead to a full evaluation within the first three months. Depending on the results of the second screening, at six months the baby may receive an early intervention.
For children with profound deafness, they may need to rely on manual communication with the use of sign language. For moderate to severe cases, hearing aids can be a benefit in assisting the children in verbal communication. Some may need to rely on sign language as well. This is where Chinilla Pedro-Peter, EHDI coordinator for the Marshall Islands, comes in.
Pedro-Peter is responsible for intervention with the families of patients. Part of her work is to help integrate manual and verbal communication around the child with the aid of a language specialist. This means immediate family and everyone around the child to reinforce one or both types of communication.
Read more about this in the February 8, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.