Purpose: To determine the extent to which the goal of hearing aid fitting by 6 months of age is being achieved and to identify barriers to achieving that goal.
Method: Screening and follow-up records from 114,121 infants born at 6 hospitals were collected over a 6-year period. Infants diagnosed with permanent hearing loss requiring amplification were categorized as fit on time, fit late, or lost to follow-up. Seven factors were empirically identified as potential barriers to timely intervention.
Results: Ninety-one percent of referred infants returned for follow-up evaluation. Hearing aids were fit on 107 of the 192 infants requiring amplification. Thirty-nine percent were fit on time, and 61% were fit late or lost to follow-up. Unilateral hearing loss and late diagnosis were statistically significant (p < .0001) predictors for late fitting and loss to follow-up. Conductive hearing loss and coverage by Medicaid were also statistically significant (p < .0001) predictors for loss to follow-up.
Conclusion: High return rate for follow-up does not ensure hearing aid fitting by 6 months of age. Infants with unilateral hearing loss are at particular risk of being lost to follow-up.