August 2011  

Early Intervention in Hearing Loss Helps Children Reach Potential

Hearing loss is the most common disability among newborns in the United States. State and national records indicate that level of incidence of newborn hearing loss is 3 out of 1,000. Since1999, the State of Texas has

Hearing loss is the most common disability among newborns in the United States

mandated that every newborn must have his or her hearing screened prior to leaving the hospital. With more than 400,000 babies born in Texas each year (Texas has the second highest birth rate in the nation), the state should be identifying and serving over 1,200 children per year. However, the Texas Early Hearing Detection and Intervention agency reports significant discrepancies in the number of infants/toddlers who are either lost to follow-up or lost to documentation. Babies who have not been retested are considered “lost to follow-up.” In Texas as many as 50% of infants who do not pass the newborn hearing screening are lost to follow-up.

There are numerous reasons for this poor follow-up statistic, including language barriers:  families not being given the information in their native language; difficulties with insurance or navigating the Medicaid system for payment of treatment; living in rural areas where the nearest audiologist may be miles away; and loss of documentation, where hearing test results may not be reported directly to the state.

Tomball Municipal Court Judge Laryssa Korduba-Hrncir understands the importance of hearing screening follow-up firsthand. All three of her children have a profound hearing loss.

“I guess shock is the best way to put it,” Judge Korduba-Hrncir said. “You always think to ask the doctor if your baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes, but you never think to ask, ‘Can he hear my voice?’”

Luke Hrncir, now 4 years old, failed his newborn hearing screening and was fitted with hearing aids by the time he was 5 weeks old. Because of the profound nature of his hearing loss, even with the most advanced hearing aid technology and weekly speech therapy sessions, he was unable to develop spoken language. Luke received his first cochlear implant when he was just 12 months old. The cochlear implant, a surgically implanted device, allows Luke to hear and communicate like any other child his age. On July 11, Judge Korduba-Hrncir’s daughters, Abbie and Aubrie, also underwent cochlear implant surgery to receive the gift of sound.

“We are thankful for the support of the Center for Hearing and Speech,” said Judge Korduba-Hrncir. “Because of them, my children have access to speech and language. We truly feel the center has saved our lives.”

Judge Korduba-Hrncir was fortunate to find a resource early on to meet her children’s hearing needs.  Many parents do not know about the importance of early hearing tests or their communication options if their child is diagnosed with hearing impairment.  The Center for Hearing and Speech is a non-profit United Way of Greater Houston organization that strives to serve all children with hearing loss regardless of their ability to pay.  Jump Start to Listening! is a free counseling program that the Center for Hearing and Speech offers to inform parents about what to do if their infant does not pass the state-mandated newborn hearing screening at birth.  The center provides free hearing aids and free speech therapy for infants (birth to 18 months) and offers a sliding fee scale for families without insurance or with limited resources.

“Our goal is to identify and diagnose hearing loss in children throughout the greater Houston area,” says Dr. Jennifer Wickesberg, Director of Audiology for the center. “We are committed to reducing the number of children lost to follow-up. Early identification combined with intervention is crucial to developing a hearing-impaired child’s listening, speaking and literacy skills.”

For almost 65 years the Center for Hearing and Speech has been at the center of the area's efforts to help hearing-impaired children thrive in this hearing world.  With the aid of advanced technology and a listening-based (or auditory-verbal) approach to developing communication skills, the center’s comprehensive audiology, speech therapy, education and family support services have provided thousands of children with the necessary tools to succeed and gain independence.  The center is not a government-funded organization and depends on the support from corporations, foundations, individuals and the United Way to achieve its goals.

A listening-based (or auditory-verbal) approach to developing communication skills

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “No single treatment or intervention is the answer for every child or family.  Good intervention plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed along the way.  There are many different options for children with hearing loss and their families."

Some of the treatment and intervention options include:
Working with a professional (or team) who can help a child and family learn to communicate
Getting a hearing device, such as a hearing aid

Joining support groups

Taking advantage of other resources available to children with a hearing loss and their families.

It is critical for parents to appreciate the importance of this issue. Help spread the word. If you have a child or know of a child who may be hearing-impaired, you can learn more about the Center for Hearing and Speech by calling 713-523-3633 or visiting online at Additional information about educating deaf and hard-of-hearing children in Texas can be found at the Educational Resource Center on Deafness.

Back-to-School Immunizations…Beat the Rush
Back-to-School Immunizations…Beat the Rush

The 2011-2012 school year is about to begin, and now is a good time for parents to make sure their children are up-to-date with their immunizations. One of the most important things parents can do to keep their children healthy is to make sure they receive all their recommended vaccinations on time. Be aware that as children get older, protection from some of their childhood vaccines can begin to wear off. Staying up-to-date with vaccines specially recommended for their age group will help keep them healthy.

The following is a list of the required vaccines for students attending a Texas school during the upcoming school year. Students without the required immunizations or a valid exemption will not be allowed to attend school.

Vaccines required for students entering kindergarten through 12th grade:

3-5 doses* of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP/DTP/DT/Td)
3-4 doses* of polio

2 doses* of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)

3 doses of hepatitis B

1-2 doses* of varicella
1 booster dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) 5-10 years after the last dose of tetanus-diphtheria-containing vaccine, depending on grade level

*Visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website at for the immunization schedule and specific number of doses required for students.

Additional vaccine requirements for students entering kindergarten, 1st grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade:

2 doses of hepatitis A for students entering K – 1st grade

2 doses of varicella for students entering K – 1st and 7th – 8th grade

1 booster dose of tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) for students entering 7th grade, if at least 5 years have passed since the last dose of tetanus-diphtheria-containing vaccine

1 dose of meningococcal for students entering 7th – 8th grade

The Texas Immunization Registry (ImmTrac) is an easy way to check your child’s immunization record.  ImmTrac is a secure and confidential registry that helps consolidate your child’s immunization information from multiple providers to one centralized system.  It’s simple to register your child.  A parent or legal guardian needs to sign a one-time written ImmTrac consent form at the child’s next vaccination visit.  Only authorized professionals can access the child’s information and parents can request their child’s record anytime, at no cost.  Encourage your physician to participate in ImmTrac.

The Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) helps provide vaccines to children (birth through 18 years of age) whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them.  VFC provides all vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at no cost for eligible children through VFC-enrolled doctors.  To locate a VFC provider in the Harris County area, contact the Texas Department of State Health Services at 713-767-3000 or dial 211.

For more information or to locate a Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services health clinic, please visit or call 713-439-6000.