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A Moment of Silence for Pioneering Audiologist Marion Downs

by Angela Santoriello

Marion Downs lived to be 100 years old, and her death in November 2014 still seemed to be too soon for the audiologist, who forged universal newborn hearing screening.

The centenarian challenged the medical field to learn that testing auditory skills at birth made a marked difference in the language and educational development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Co-authoring a now 6th edition book with accompanying audiologist and friend Jerry Northern, Hearing in Children is one of the “most popular and authoritative books in the profession,” according to the Hearing Review, a hearing industry news website.

Saying Downs “received almost every honor conceivable in the hearing healthcare field,” the Hearing Review reports one of her most notable accolades in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for her “exemplary contributions to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.”

Calling the period between 12- and 24-months-old “critical,” Northern recalled that before Downs’ discovery, children did not receive hearing devices until almost four years old, causing detrimental damage.

“If children are not stimulated, they don’t hear language and speech developed correctly, they are often delayed and very often face educational problems for the remainder of their lives,” Northern said in a National Public Radio report.

It was not until she pulled out her own horns and rattles and began a tour across the United States to screen children. Though the medical field dismissed Downs, neglecting early detection, she refused to give up.

“Finally, in 1993, the National Institutes of Health made a consensus recommendation for universal newborn hearing screen,” NPR reported, adding that because of Downs’ diligent desire to serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, “Today, 97 percent of the millions of American babies born in hospitals or birthing centers are screened at birth.”

The Marian Downs Center, based in Denver, CO, has a “cradle to grave” philosophy. The vision statement “to serve as a unique organization providing outstanding and innovative service, education and support to fill a growing need locally and globally” is a constant pursuit for the non-profit organization, according to an MDC report.

Along with offering resources and services for those impaired and also family members, the center offers news and events for professionals. Twice a year, the MDC Frontiers in Hearing Symposium joins early hearing interventionists and expert audiologists from all over to share any current and vital information, as well as “emerging practices,” according to the MDC.

There is no doubt that Downs changed the world for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, fighting for early detection when no one else would.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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