Universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS), when accompanied by timely access to intervention services, can improve language outcomes for children born deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) and result in economic benefits to society. Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs promote UNHS and using information systems support access to follow-up diagnostic and early intervention services so that infants can be screened no later than 1 month of age, with those who do not pass their screen receiving diagnostic evaluation no later than 3 months of age, and those with diagnosed hearing loss receiving intervention services no later than 6 months of age. In this paper, we first document the rapid roll-out of UNHS/EHDI policies and programs at the national and state/territorial levels in the United States between 1997 and 2005. We then review cost analyses and economic arguments that were made in advancing those policies in the United States. Finally, we examine evidence on language and educational outcomes that pertain to the economic benefits of UNHS/EHDI. In conclusion, although formal cost-effectiveness analyses do not appear to have played a decisive role, informal economic assessments of costs and benefits appear to have contributed to the adoption of UNHS policies in the United States.
Keywords: EHDI; cost analysis; cost-effectiveness; hearing screening; neonatal screening.