Ear to Ear
A new infant hearing rescreening service has this dedicated Mary Greeley Medical Center nurse smiling.
Lucinda Hollingshead, R.N., takes 1-day-old Adam Hintz into the nursery on the Birthways Unit at Mary Greeley Medical Center. She swaddles him in a blanket and pauses for a moment as she cradles him in her arms, admiring all of his tiny features. Next she lays the sleeping baby down in a bassinet and attaches a few sensory pads to his head, which will detect Adam’s brain response to a sequence of beeps being played through small coverings over his ears.
Lucinda Hollingshead performs a hearing
test on newborn Adam Hintz, of Ankeny.
Hollingshead is conducting a state-mandated hearing screening using an Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) machine called the ALGO 5—the newest generation of AABR testing equipment made by the Natus Corporation.
Thankfully, Adam passed his hearing screening. Had he not, the Hintzes would have needed to get his hearing rescreened. Central Iowa parents who need to have their infant’s hearing rescreened now have a convenient option right here in Ames.
The ALGO 5 in the Birthways Unit at Mary Greeley Medical Center will be used to perform hearing rescreens not only for infants born at the medical center but also for any infants referred by another hospital. There are only five AABR machines capable of doing rescreens located in the central Iowa region, including Des Moines and Mason City hospitals. For families living in Ames and the surrounding area, a lengthy trip for a short test will no longer be necessary.
Dr. John Paschen, a pediatrician, encouraged the hospital to purchase the equipment, calling it some of the best hearing screening technology now available. The infant hearing screening and rescreening is a fantastic service, especially for parents, he says.
“We often simply ask parents if they think their newborn’s hearing is good, and that’s generally a very good gauge,” Paschen says. “Even so, I’ve had a few cases where children had no hearing in one ear, and the only reason we discovered the hearing was abnormal was through hearing screenings. We just kept following up and following up until we confirmed it. And we also now know that if you have abnormal hearing in just one ear, it can still impact speech development.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hearing loss is one of the most frequently occurring birth defects. Approximately three infants per 1,000 are born with moderate, profound or severe hearing loss. If hearing loss is not detected and treated early, it can impede speech; language; and cognitive, social and emotional development.
According to Iowa’s Early Detection Hearing Intervention program, based on national statistics, approximately 120 Iowa children (out of approximately 40,000 births per year) would be expected to be born with a permanent hearing loss. Because learning early if a baby has a potential hearing problem is so important, there are federal mandates, and it has been written into Iowa law that newborns should have their hearing tested within a few days of birth. If they fail the test, the baby must be retested within 30 days on an AABR machine. If the retest is failed as well, further diagnostic testing and a treatment plan need to be in place by age 3 months.
While Paschen is glad Mary Greeley Medical Center now has this new equipment, he has even more praise for Hollingshead’s dedication to making sure infants have good hearing.
“You can push all you want, but you need someone who is going to take the ball and run with it. That’s Lucinda,” says Paschen. “I can’t say enough good things about her commitment to this.”
Hollingshead has been a nurse for 35 years and has spent most of her career at Mary Greeley Medical Center. She worked in Pediatrics until 2010, when she opted to leave the unit. Due to an illness she had as a young woman, Hollingshead had been gradually losing her hearing. When she became concerned that her hearing loss might inhibit the care she was providing in Pediatrics, she made the decision to seek other opportunities.
But Mary Greeley Medical Center did not want to lose Hollingshead’s skills. She is now a First Nurse, supports employee health programs and oversees the infant hearing testing. She conducts tests, makes sure results are properly filed with state and federal agencies, and does follow-up with parents who need to retest their infants. These responsibilities involve a lot of one-on-one interaction in quiet settings, which works great for Hollingshead, who wears bilateral hearing aids.
Watching her at work it’s easy to tell that Hollingshead loves her job.
“I enjoy knowing that I’ve done just this very little part in this little newborn’s life,” she says. “When I do a hearing screen on a babe and they pass, it’s like ‘YES!’ ”
It’s also apparent that Hollingshead is quite appreciated around the medical center. Just about every other person who passes by her comes to say hello with a big smile and hug.
“They say when a door closes, a window opens,” says Hollingshead. “Mary Greeley is my window.”