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Highlights

Deaf and hard of hearing children can face significant challenges developing the language and literacy skills needed to succeed in school and become self-sufficient adults. The federal government supports these children through the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program, which awards grants to states to develop systems to screen and diagnose newborns and infants for hearing loss and refer them for appropriate interventions. Also, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) supports and funds early intervention and special education services for children with disabilities, including deafness and hearing loss. To better understand how federal programs support deaf and hard of hearing children, GAO was asked to examine the: (1) extent of hearing loss among children, (2) settings in which these children are educated, (3) factors that help deaf and hard of hearing children acquire language and literacy skills, and (4) challenges to providing appropriate interventions for these children. GAO analyzed data on hearing loss; reviewed research literature; interviewed educators, national organizations, parents, and state and federal officials; and examined relevant federal laws and regulations. A draft of this report was provided to the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services for review and comment. Each provided technical comments, which were incorporated into the report, as appropriate. GAO makes no recommendations in this report.

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