USD Research Helping to Spot Infant Hearing Loss in Rural Areas

Image Infant Hearing Loss Jessica Messersmith, associate professor of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at USD, uses a device that screens for hearing loss in a 2-month-old infant that’s similar to those used by hospitals before newborns are discharged. Messersmith and Haifa Samra, associate chair of Research/Evidence-based Practice in Nursing, are using a federal grant to help identify hearing loss in infants earlier.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Two USD researchers are using a federal grant to improve the process of identifying hearing loss in infants across South Dakota, which can be a challenge because of its rural landscape.

Haifa Samra, associate chair of Research/Evidence-based Practice in Nursing, and Jessica Messersmith, associate professor of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, received the funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration in conjunction with the South Dakota Department of Health. The $400,000 over two years will fund enhancements to South Dakota’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program, which provides funding for hearing loss detection and intervention programs nationwide.


Samra and Messersmith said children with hearing loss who receive help before they reach 6 months of age do significantly better than those who receive intervention later. But implementing the EHDI program in a rural state like South Dakota can be challenging, they said.


Their research aims to provide training, support and resources to birthing facilities, medical providers and parents. They’re also conducting focus groups with families that have been through the EHDI program to find out if they feel supported through the process and what challenges they faced. The USD researchers said such answers will help identify and address the weak links in the state when it comes to early hearing loss detection.


“The goals of this work are long standing. This is one component of a larger effort to improve the services available to the families of children with hearing loss in our state,” said Messersmith.

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