To date, no studies have examined vocabulary outcomes of children meeting all 3 components of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) guidelines (hearing screening by 1 month, diagnosis of hearing loss by 3 months, and intervention by 6 months of age). The primary purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of the current EHDI 1-3-6 policy on vocabulary outcomes across a wide geographic area. A secondary goal was to confirm the impact of other demographic variables previously reported to be related to language outcomes.
This was a cross-sectional study of 448 children with bilateral hearing loss between 8 and 39 months of age (mean = 25.3 months, SD = 7.5 months). The children lived in 12 different states and were participating in the National Early Childhood Assessment Project.
The combination of 6 factors in a regression analysis accounted for 41% of the variance in vocabulary outcomes. Vocabulary quotients were significantly higher for children who met the EHDI guidelines, were younger, had no additional disabilities, had mild to moderate hearing loss, had parents who were deaf or hard of hearing, and had mothers with higher levels of education.
Vocabulary learning may be enhanced with system improvements that increase the number of children meeting the current early identification and intervention guidelines. In addition, intervention efforts need to focus on preventing widening delays with chronological age, assisting mothers with lower levels of education, and incorporating adults who are deaf/hard-of-hearing in the intervention process.