Dr. Yoshinaga-Itano is both a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing and an audiologist. She has conducted research in the areas of language, speech, and social-emotional development of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants and children for over thirty years. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Education, Maternal and Child Health, the Center for Disease Control, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Education, and the University of Colorado.
Over the last 20 years, she has focused on the impact of early-identification and early intervention on the developmental outcomes of children with significant hearing loss. Professor Yoshinaga-Itano was the first to demonstrate that when infants with hearing loss are identified in the first few months of life and provided with appropriate intervention services, that 80% these infants/children with significant hearing loss and no additional disabilities are able to maintain age-appropriate language development and intelligible speech in the first five years of life. As a result of this research, universal newborn hearing screening programs were implemented in the United States. The only other newborn screening mandated in the United States is screening for phenyketonuria (PKU).
Professor Yoshinaga-Itano’s research demonstrated that it was critical that identification of hearing loss and early intervention must occur within the first six months of life in order for the majority of children with congenital hearing loss to maintain language development commensurate with their normal hearing peers, indicating that there is a sensitive period of communication development that requires access to language development early in life. She also studies the development of infants/toddlers and children with hearing disabilities in non-English speaking homes.
The impact of early identification and intervention on successful outcomes of children with hearing loss was found irrespective of the socio-economic status of the families, the method of communication, the race/ethnicity of the family/child, or the gender of the child. As a direct result of her research studies, universal newborn hearing screening programs have now been implemented in all 50 states and also in many countries throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, Poland, and Brazil.