UC Davis in a new partnership with the State of California and Mercy Medical Center in Redding will enable infants located throughout Northern California to be seen by a pediatric audiologist at UC Davis via telemedicine. The program is funded with a three year $354,242 grant by HRSA and by the Child Health Bureau through the Department of Health Care Services, Children’s Medical Services. Participation in the program comes from referrals from the state Health Coordination Center.
This teleaudiology program is unique because rather than consulting with audiologists or other clinicians at the remote location who then diagnose and treat the patient, the UC Davis audiologists actually perform the hearing screening and make the diagnosis.
Early identification of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants before 3 months of age and starting early intervention services before 6 months of age are the most important factors in developing age-appropriate language skills, whether families communicate using sign language or spoken language.
“Driving three to four hours to a medical center with a four week old baby may not be possible for many families”, said Anne Simon, Senior Pediatric Audiologist in the UC Davis Department of Otolaryngology.
The program focuses primarily on infants living inland in the far northern counties in California adjacent to Shasta County where Redding is located. The program works when an EEG technician in Redding places electrodes on an infant’s head and earpieces in the ears. The audiologist then controls the screen equipment remotely from Sacramento.
The telemedicine connection allows the technician to switch camera views in order to see the infant and the parents as well as the technician and the screen room. It is also possible to view the child’s ear canal and eardrum with the information being recorded by the device during the two to four hour testing period.
In the auditory brainstem response test, an electrical signal is evoked from the brainstem as a response to an auditory stimulus, the child is tested and it has been found that many have a conductive hearing loss, which may be caused by obstruction of the middle, ear, sensory loss in the cochlea, or by neurological issues.
Then the next step is to use otoacoustic emissions to test inner ear health which can indicate the site of a lesion for hearing loss in infants. Also, typanometry can test the health of the middle ear and the mobility of the ear drum.
“We are very excited about providing this program, because central Northern California has the highest lost-to-follow-up rate in the state for newborn hearing screening,” said James Marcin M.D, Professor of Pediatric Critical-Care Medicine and Director of the US Davis Pediatric Telemedicine Program.
For more information, go to www.children.ucdavis.edu.