Essential Pediatric Hearing Evaluation and the COVID-19 Pandemic
In efforts to help limit the spread of SARS-CoV2 and minimize the risk of COVID-19 to patients, providers, and staff, many institutional guidelines now mandate canceling or postponing all non-urgent and non-essential appointments. Newborn hearing screening, evaluation for referring hearing and treatment when indicated should still be performed per routine institutional protocols and considered essential patient care.
It has been long recognized that undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss at birth can adversely affect future speech and language development, academic achievement and social-emotional development especially if delayed later than 6 months of age. This finding has been the motivation for every state in the US to have a newborn hearing screening program and early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) programs to ensure timely evaluation and treatment.
Given the highly variable incidence and prevalence of COVID-19, the uneven local and geographical response to the pandemic, as well as widely reported shortages of proper personal protective equipment, there may be a period of months before non-essential care is resumed in some areas.
Healthcare providers need to consider these competing issues and try to continue newborn hearing screening, diagnosis and treatment efforts. These efforts should include ABR and/or other diagnostic audiologic testing but not necessarily genetic testing, eye exam or other testing that could be delayed unless they directly impact patient management in the short-term. We recognize that local institutions may possess variable resources to provide newborn screening, evaluation and treatment. It is incumbent upon the medical community, working in collaboration with the general population, to do everything possible to limit the spread of this virus yet try to provide essential care such as hearing services for newborns with possible congenital sensorineural hearing loss.
The Academy is continuously monitoring the public health situation related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to provide information and resources for you, your practice, and your patients. Please bookmark the AAO-HNS Coronavirus Disease 2019: Resources webpage for access to information and resources.
Important Disclaimer Notice (Updated 7/31/14)
Position statements are approved by the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery or Foundation (AAO-HNS/F) Boards of Directors and are typically generated from AAO-HNS/F committees. Once approved by the Academy or Foundation Board of Directors, they become official position statements and are added to the existing position statement library. In no sense do they represent a standard of care. The applicability of position statements, as guidance for a procedure, must be determined by the responsible physician in light of all the circumstances presented by the individual patient. Adherence to these clinical position statements will not ensure successful treatment in every situation. As with all AAO-HNS/F guidance, this position statement should not be deemed inclusive of all proper treatment decisions or methods of care, nor exclusive of other treatment decisions or methods of care reasonably directed to obtaining the same results. Position statements are not intended to and should not be treated as legal, medical, or business advice.