Hearing Screenings and Evaluations
Each center at First Step, Inc. has the ability to screen or evaluate the hearing of individuals, whose ages are between birth and adulthood. We have contracted with an audiologist for services for the past 15 years. Through the use of an audiometer and a tympanometer we are able to screen pure-tone air conduction hearing and determine the possibility of a referral to the primary care physician for middle ear problems. Utilizing the audiometers during this time speech pathologists and our audiologist have screened our consumers and referred them for further evaluation by our audiologist, observation by their primary care physician (PCP) or ear, nose and throat physicians (ENT). A part of that screening process is an observation of the middle ear and the movement of the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Tympanometry is helpful in diagnosing otitis media (ear infections, middle ear fluid) and distinguishing a sensorineural and a conductive hearing loss.
Some years after our audiologist came to First Step we ordered a sound proof booth to be able to evaluate more thoroughly the hearing of our consumers. We have VRA (visual reinforcement audiometry) capability which is used for screening the hearing of children who are 6 months through 2 years of age. The children are trained to look at the sound source. The children will receive a visual reinforcement for the correct acknowledgement of the sound source.
The most recent purchase for First Step has been an OAE (otoacoustic emissions) for each center which enables audiology assistants , audiologists, speech pathologists and nurses to screen every consumer who enrolls at First Step. The audiologist trains each of these staff members on how to operate this equipment. Otoacoustic emissions screens the hearing to the cochlea hair cells and the consumer does not have to make a physiological response. This screener is able to determine outer ear canal blockage, and the presence of middle ear fluid and possible damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea. This equipment was utilized while First Step was working with two local hospitals, National Park Medical Hospital and Hot Spring County Medical Hospital, during the pilot project of the Newborn Hearing Screening in Arkansas. Our speech pathologists , audiologist and audiology assistant provided round the clock hearing screens to all of the newborns in those hospitals giving us a wonderful rapport with the staffs of those facilities which ensured better services for their consumers. When an infant failed the hearing screen at the hospital then they were usually referred through their pediatrician to First Step for further evaluation and treatment.
Through First Step’s commitment to providing quality care in the area of hearing and organizations such as the Hot Springs Community Foundation we have been able to purchase the equipment needed to provide such services. First Step has taken the lead in providing superior care for hearing issues in the communities we serve.