Mason to participate in CDC roundtable on newborn screenings

A University of Maine professor of education will participate in a roundtable on screening newborns for hearing loss and congenital heart disease, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Professor Craig Mason, who specializes in applied quantitative methods, will be one of four roundtable experts speaking on, “Beyond the Blood Spot: Newborn Screening for Hearing Loss and Critical Congenital Heart Disease,” which will be held from 1-2 p.m. at the CDC’s Roybal Campus in Atlanta. The event is part of the CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds series. The event will be streamed and archived on the CDC website.

Newborn screenings began in the United States in the 1960s to test for medical conditions that may not be apparent just by looking at a baby. Finding these conditions soon after birth can help prevent certain serious problems, such as brain damage, organ damage, and even death. The traditional method of newborn screening is bloodspot testing, where blood is sent to a lab to be screened for a number of conditions. More recently, health officials have developed point-of-care screening methods to test for hearing loss and critical congenital heart defects, conditions that are not identifiable through blood tests.

Mason will give a presentation on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), a national program that involves screening newborns for hearing loss no later than one-month of age. Those who do not pass the initial screening receive a formal audiological diagnosis by 3 months of age, and those diagnosed with hearing loss receive early intervention no later than 6 months of age.

“A lot of the focus—particularly for CDC—is on not just identifying at-risk children via screening, but then making certain they go on for diagnosis and services,” Mason says. “This requires monitoring children through diagnosis, early intervention, and now increasingly into longer-term follow-up in order to assess outcomes on children.”

Maine has had a statewide EHDI program for 15 years. Mason and Shihfen Tu, associate professor of education and applied quantitative methods, are part of a UMaine team that built, maintains and operates the Maine EHDI data system. In addition, the team helped develop EHDI-PALS, a nationwide website that helps parents find the nearest providers with equipment and audiologists trained to meet the specific needs of their child. The UMaine team also tracks the long-term outcomes of early intervention.

“We have been able to examine third grade proficiency levels for children with hearing loss, and found that those identified early through EHDI were significantly more likely to meet third grade math standards, versus children with hearing loss not identified through EHDI,” Mason says.

Contact: Casey Kelly, 207.581.3751