On April 26, legislation to reauthorize the federal portion of
newborn infant hearing screening programs in all 50 states for the next 5 years
was passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and
now awaits scheduling for a vote before the full Senate. The leading Senate sponsors
of the bill, which is titled the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI)
Act of 2017 (S. 652), are Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). The
bill now needs to be brought up for a full vote in the U.S. Senate in order to
advance the program’s reauthorization.
Please take action NOW, and urge your Senators to ask for a full vote in the Senate as
soon as possible.
Although this first step is encouraging, no one can guarantee that
the program will continue until it passes both chambers of Congress. This is a
noncontroversial program and has both Republican and Democratic support.
Great strides have been made, but significant work remains to be
done to ensure that newborns with hearing loss receive timely and appropriate
services. Continued federal funding is necessary to ensure that state EHDI
programs become fully operational and successful—and that they properly link
screening programs with diagnosis and early intervention.
EHDI reauthorization legislation passed the House in September
2015. It was introduced in the Senate in December 2015, but due to the compact
legislative calendar and busy political cycle, it was unable to come up for a
vote in the Senate. An official appropriation has been made for the program,
despite it not being reauthorized; however, reauthorization needs to occur as
soon as possible to guarantee that the program continues.
EHDI grants were first authorized in the Newborn Infant Hearing Screening
and Intervention Act of 1999, which was incorporated into the Consolidated
Appropriations Act of 2000 and signed into law. That law provided federal funds
for state grants to develop infant hearing screening and intervention programs.
The following year, Congress reauthorized these grants through the Children’s
Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310) and included provisions related to early
hearing screening and evaluation of all newborns, coordinated intervention,
rehabilitation services, and research. In 2010, Congress passed the Early
Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2010, which authorized these programs
For more information, please contact Sam Hewitt, ASHA’s director
of congressional advocacy, at email@example.com or 202-624-5961.