Pediatric Audiology Trainees Collaborate with State Division of Public Health to Conduct Statewide Analysis of EHDI Services

April 20, 2016

LEND trainees from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC - Chapel Hill, attended the national EHDI Conference in San Diego, March 13-15, 2016, where they presented a poster entitled: "Regional Analysis of EHDI Outcomes in North Carolina." The EHDI acronym, which stands for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, represents the systems of care responsible for screening, diagnosis, and intervention for infants with congenital or early onset hearing loss. EHDI programs across the nation have committed themselves to the "1-3-6 goals" of screening infants for hearing loss no later than one month of age with diagnosis no later than three months of age and intervention no later than six months of age. Remarkable progress has been made over the past 20 years since newborn hearing screening has developed into a standard of care but challenges remain, especially with regard to timely diagnosis and intervention.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, six audiology graduate students from UNC's Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program funded in their second or third year by the North Carolina LEND Program, collaborated with staff from the North Carolina Division of Public Health to conduct a statewide analysis of EHDI-related outcomes for 12 newly created geographic regions, to determine strengths, challenges, and opportunities for EHDI program development and improvement. The 2015 reorganization is intended to improve continuity of care and greater familiarity with regional providers. With mentoring and technical assistance provided by state EHDI manager Marcia Fort, AuD, and Jackson Roush, NC LEND director, the project had four goals: to obtain baseline 1-3-6 data for each of the new regions; to conduct an analysis of strengths, challenges, and opportunities for each region, to summarize the data obtained for use by the EHDI program for evaluation and strategic planning, and to engage future professionals in a project that combined a valuable learning experience with important contributions to the state EHDI program.

In addition to quantitative data, the students examined demographic and geographic features that could impact the delivery of EHDI services. The first step was for the students to meet EHDI staff from each region. This opportunity was provided in October, 2015, when North Carolina held its first statewide EHDI Stakeholders Meeting which was hosted by NC LEND. Attendees were members of the EHDI staff and Advisory Committee including professionals, parents, and representatives of several agencies and programs that serve children with hearing loss in North Carolina. The participants were assigned to rotating focus groups that worked to define strengths, challenges, and opportunities for program development and improvement. During the stakeholder meeting the LEND students met with EHDI staff to discuss regional characteristics, demographics, strengths, and needs. In the weeks that followed, the students examined regional 1-3-6 outcome data provided by the Division of Public Health. They also communicated with their EHDI representatives regarding perceived strengths, challenges, and opportunities within each region.

The study provided the first regional analysis since North Carolina's statewide EHDI reorganization in 2015 and the findings will be incorporated into EHDI goals and objectives with the aim of improving the quality and accessibility of services for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. NC-LEND is one of ten LEND programs in the U.S. receiving supplemental funding to increase the number of pediatric audiologists with expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss in infants and young children. The program is based at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, UNC School of Medicine.

Pictured here in front of their poster presented at the national EHDI conference in San Diego, left-right, Heather Mazzola, Sarah Webster, Kim Holden, Lauren Johnson, Dani Warmund, and Conner Haring.