New state laws aim to improve keiki hearing and vision screening

Officials from the state Department of Health joined child health advocates Friday as Gov. David Y. Ige signed House Bills 986 and 987, both of which expand and improve keiki hearing and vision screening.

“We know that early childhood development establishes the foundation for our keiki to succeed in school and in life,” Deputy Director of Health Resources Administration Danette Wong Tomiyasu said in a statement. “Early diagnosis and intervention will ensure these keiki reach learning milestones and have every opportunity to succeed.


“Mahalo to the advocates for their persistence in fighting for these changes, and Governor Ige and our legislators for prioritizing the health of our keiki.”

HB 986 mandates reporting to the DOH the results of diagnostic hearing tests for infants failing newborn hearing screening or who are diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing up to age 3. Earlier diagnosis is important for better outcomes.

This measure will ensure that infants who fail their newborn hearing screening will receive diagnostic testing, according to the DOH. Keiki who are diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing will be referred for early intervention, which includes speech, language and hearing services.

HB 987 will set statewide standards for the keiki hearing and vision screenings conducted in schools. This will increase the early identification of hearing and vision loss in children to support the development of language and communication skills needed for learning, the DOH said. It will also set standards for follow-up and screener training and certification.

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