22. Early Hearing and Detection Intervention (EHDI)
The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) was established at Utah State University in 1990, to disseminate information and assist in state-based Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs. Because of EHDI, newborn hearing-screening programs have become standard practice nationwide. Parents now know if their newborn is deaf before the baby leaves the hospital. In some ways, this is good, but in other ways, it has created enormous problems for the children involved. The professionals who inform the parents are typically audiologists, who, in the vast majority of cases, know only about medical-based approaches and downplay or ignore the importance of ASL. They may have a pathological aversion to it.
The national Early Hearing and Detection Intervention Meeting is held annually under the auspices of the National Center for Hearing Assessment & Management at Utah State University, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Resources and Services Administration.
Although the EHDI is open to all interested parties, Deaf representation has been, statistically, in the minority. Only a small number of papers have been by Deaf people, and there is far more interest in audiological, biotechnological approaches and “Listening and Spoken Language” (oralism) than in American Sign Language and ASL/English bilingualism. Deaf people who have participated in the EHDI have noted the extreme difficulty in coping with deeply-ingrained prejudice and resistance.
The Deaf community has raised numerous objections to the EHDI—the governmental support of the audiological/oral/cochlear-implant lobby, the absence of Deaf stakeholders on its governing board, its refusal too entertain the notion of a Deaf majority on the boards of agencies supposedly serving the needs of Deaf people and their families.
As it is now, EHDI gives far too much emphasis to auditory-oral approaches and cochlear implants, and far too little emphasis on ASL and ASL/English bilingualism. Deaf participants and presenters are in the minority. We want to see more active participation by Deaf parents, teachers, advocates, and other stakeholders, more emphasis given to ASL and bilingual approaches, and more promotion of the linguistic instead of medical model.