Message from Sergei Kochkin, PhD, executive director for the Better Hearing Institute:
Illinois Senate bill 641 requires an eye exam for students entering kindergarten effective for the 2008/2009 school year. The exam (not screening) may be performed by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. The bill appears to have been spearheaded by a not-for-profit organization called The Vision First Foundation Kids Eyes Count Campaign. Financial support for those who cannot afford the eye exam are provided by the Illinois All Kids program. According to the Vision First Foundation, Illinois is the first state to achieve mandatory eye exams for children entering school.
With the disparity between parent perceptions of hearing loss in their children (historically around 1.7%—MarkeTrak and NIH) and objective data indicating that hearing loss in children exceeds 10% (Niskar, AS 1998, 2001) achieving universal mandatory hearing exams upon entering kindergarten would appear to be a logical next step to EHDI Phase II. It is a powerful way of identifying children whose hearing loss is unknown by their parent, pediatrician or teacher; not to mention achieving increased throughput into audiologist offices.
What a wonderful way of launching the educational journey of a child by assuring adequate vision and hearing health care.