Barbara Greenberg-Cordero, Audiologist/Clinical Director at KIDZ

By Daniel Casciato

Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent congenital disabilities in America. Early identification is essential for a baby to develop speech and language. Newborn hearing screenings have become the norm in most states, including Florida, where legislation now requires hospitals to provide these screenings to all newborns.

KIDZ Medical Services (KIDZ) is a physician-owned healthcare network based in Coral Gables that adopted new technology and established the First Sounds Newborn Hearing Screening Program in 1996, long before it became mandatory.

“We were one of five centers in the state involved in its pilot study before becoming mandatory for all newborns,” says Jorge E. Perez, M.D., co-founder of KIDZ Medical.

Dr. Perez was instrumental in convincing state legislators in the mid 1990’s to make this test mandatory for all newborns born in Florida.

“I educated our legislators that hearing loss was much more common than metabolic disorders which was already a mandatory test for all newborns born in the state,” he explains. “Recently, I’ve been involved in state committees establishing and implementing policies for congenital CMV testing on all newborns who failed the hearing screening.”

The importance of newborn hearing screening is often overlooked, but it is an essential part of a baby’s health and development, according to Barbara Greenberg-Cordero, Audiologist/Clinical Director at KIDZ.

The First Sounds Newborn Hearing Screening Program is offered to over 20,000 newborns annually at the hospitals in which KIDZ neonatologists serve. The impact of the program is significant, especially when it comes to early intervention.

“Early identification of hearing loss or atypical hearing is essential to a child’s outcome,” explains Greenberg-Cordero. “If a baby is screened by one month, identified by three months, and intervention begins by six months, any gaps in speech and language development can be closed.”

Last year, Greenberg-Cordero recommended upgrading to the Maico EasyScreen devices, which offer faster, more accurate, and more portable screening capabilities. KIDZ subsequently acquired 15 of these state-of-the-art devices to replace their existing technology. This acquisition has significantly improved the efficiency and accuracy of the newborn hearing screening program, notes Greenberg-Cordero.

“The technology is much faster, so that parents receive results much quicker, alleviating their anxiety and concerns about their baby’s hearing health,” she says.

The Screening Program offered by KIDZ is different from other programs in the state. One of the most significant differences is that well-trained hearing screening technicians perform the screenings.

“Our First Sounds program avoids referring too many babies for follow-up,” Greenberg-Cordero adds. “The program also emphasizes educating parents about how to monitor their baby’s hearing health as they grow. This is essential because some programs do not discuss speech and language development or give parents examples of what signs to look for as their babies grow.”

Another unique aspect of the program is that they have a specific protocol for babies at higher risk for hearing loss. They perform two different screenings on babies at higher risk, including those in the NICU and those with a family member with hearing loss in early childhood. This protocol ensures that at-risk babies can be flagged for follow-up more closely and have intervention earlier if needed.

“We hope to expand our program to more locations so that parents can receive the best service and information for their babies’ hearing health,” says Greenberg-Cordero.

This program is just one example of how KIDZ stays ahead of the curve, using the latest technology and innovative approaches to provide the best care possible for newborns. In addition, the organization’s proactive approach has allowed it to set standards of care that others follow.

Ultimately, the First Sounds Newborn Hearing Screening Program is a model for how healthcare organizations can take the initiative and adopt new technologies and approaches to provide the best care possible for their patients. Early intervention for hearing loss is essential. The First Sounds Newborn Hearing Screening Program ensures that no baby goes undiagnosed.

“As you can see from its inception in the mid 90’s to now, we have always been involved in piloting, policy making and implementation,” adds Dr. Perez.

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