Study Finds Parent's Socioeconomic Factors Impact Whether Children with Hearing Loss Are Referred for Specialized Care

Sunday, May 06, 2007

CINCINNATI – A study by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has found that children with moderately severe or worse hearing loss that might benefit from a technology called a cochlear implant were more likely to be referred to cochlear implant teams for assessment if they are Caucasian, their parents are wed and the family isn't on Medicaid.

The study will be presented at 11 a.m. EST on Sunday, May 6, at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Toronto, Canada. Study author was Susan Wiley, MD, developmental pediatrician in the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and consultant to the Ear and Hearing Center at Cincinnati Children's.

She explained that when hearing impairment is detected at birth, infants are fit with hearing aids as early as possible and monitored closely to determine if early auditory and language skills are emerging as expected. For those infants not developing hearing and language skills sufficiently, an interdisciplinary team then evaluates the child to determine if a cochlear implant is appropriate.

Because the cochlear implant can make such a positive difference for these children, said Dr. Wiley, it's important that all children who might be helped are referred for assessment. Her study of 92 children who were eligible for referral for a possible cochlear implant, 83 percent of children from two-parent families were referred, while only 46 percent of children in one-parent families were referred. Non-referred children were also more likely to be non-Caucasian, on Medicaid, and from families with lower incomes than those referred.

Dr. Wiley said this finding is not surprising from what we know from other studies describing children who have already received implants. "The implications of these findings are that many children are still being underserved and lack equal access to medical technology," said Dr. Wiley. "Our findings of these disparities among children should be reviewed and addressed to provide families with the best and most appropriate care possible."

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, one of the leading pediatric research institutions in the nation, is dedicated to changing the outcome for children throughout the world. Cincinnati Children's ranks second among all pediatric institutions in the United States in grants from the National Institutes of Health. It has an established tradition of research excellence, with discoveries including the Sabin oral polio vaccine, the surfactant preparation that saves the lives of thousands of premature infants each year, and a rotavirus vaccine that saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of infants around the world each year. Current strategic directions include the translation of basic laboratory research into the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of disease, and furthering the development of personalized and predictive medicine.

Contact Information

Amy Caruso, 513-636-5637, amy.caruso@cchmc.org