CCHAT Spotlight: Newborn Hearing Diagnostic Program


Since 1996, CCHAT has served as a community resource for families of children with hearing loss. With more than 25 years of experience, CCHAT has grown from a program that served a single classroom to one that now provides annual service to hundreds of children in the greater Sacramento area.

CCHAT is continually looking to meet the needs of the community, and with that in mind, the Newborn Hearing Diagnostic Program was developed. The program serves as a vital tool for newborns and their families throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Meeting the Needs of the Community

Originally focused on providing center-based services to children who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH), CCHAT expanded its reach in 2018. At this time, CCHAT discovered a gap in the continuum of health services for infants who failed their initial inpatient hearing screenings. CCHAT worked quickly to become a Medi-Cal/CCS Type C Communication Disorder Center, which enabled CCHAT to provide hearing test screenings and diagnostic evaluations to this at-risk demographic.

The need for these services is critical. About three of every 1000 babies are diagnosed with significant hearing loss, making it the most frequently occurring birth defect. Newborns who do not pass state-mandated hearing screenings in the hospital are referred to an outpatient infant hearing screening provider for rescreening, which should be performed within one month of discharge.

However, a number of issues can arise during this process. Hospitals often experience a backlog that can make receiving timely services a challenge. In some cases, hospitals do not accept Medi-Cal, a state benefit often used by low-income families.

Conversely, CCHAT can generally provide an appointment within a week of initial contact. Additionally, CCHAT is a Medi-Cal provider that serves as a crucial resource capable of performing vital hearing rescreening services for a wide-ranging demographic.

Carrying Out our Goal with Top-Level Staff

CCHAT benefits immensely from the presence of an on-site pediatric audiologist. Since 2016, Dr. Katie Isbell has led CCHAT’s audiology department, providing a variety of critical services to CCHAT students and children with hearing loss throughout the region. The ability to have Dr. Isbell on staff as a campus and community resource is invaluable not only to the students in the CCHAT program but also to the newborn babies in the region in need of timely hearing rescreenings. CCHAT prides itself on providing top-level service to its community, and Dr. Isbell is an integral member of the team.

As part of the Newborn Hearing Diagnostic Program, Dr. Isbell uses two essential methods of screening. The first method involves an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) and the other involves Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). Sounds (tones or clicks) are played through small earphones and responses to the sounds are automatically measured. Both tests use FDA-approved screening equipment that detects hearing loss in infants.

Who Benefits and Why it is Important

CCHAT’s Newborn Hearing Diagnostic Program helps meet the demand for infant hearing health, with referrals coming from prominent regional hospitals like Mercy, Sutter and UC Davis, as well as private birthing centers, midwives and other births outside of the hospital system. CCHAT receives referrals for infants as far north as Redding and as far south as Modesto. This vast geographical area shows the breadth of CCHAT’s reach and its importance in the region.

Proper diagnosis is essential as it leads to early intervention for children with hearing loss. Infant hearing loss is considered a "neurodevelopmental emergency" due to the limited time the brain has to make auditory neural connections. Access to timely follow-up hearing health services and early intervention resources is especially significant for families who are low-income, struggle with access to healthcare and for those who choose birthing options outside of the hospital system.

This project’s ability to expeditiously diagnose newborn hearing loss has a significant impact on children who are DHH in the community, opening the door for them to begin receiving services that will help them succeed in a hearing world.

Looking Ahead

Realizing the critical nature of this diagnosis, CCHAT continually looks to enhance its Newborn Hearing Diagnostic Program. The initiative is one of CCHAT’s primary areas of focus for fundraising and grant proposals. CCHAT aims to stay on top of the latest technology, ensuring that its audiology department has the equipment needed to provide the best possible care for infants in our region.

To learn more about CCHAT’s newborn hearing health services or to schedule an appointment today, CLICK HERE or call 916-361-7290. CLICK HERE to see a list of CCHAT’s wide-ranging audiological testing and what to expect at an appointment.

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