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Iowa KidSight

A State-wide Sight and Hearing Screening Program for Infants and Children

The University of Iowa, in partnership with the Iowa Lions Foundation and communities throughout Iowa are initiating a program to objectively screen infants and children between 6 months and 4 years of age for loss of sight and hearing.

Vision and hearing loss affect a significant portion of our population. Early detection and treatment can prevent permanent and debilitating loss of sight and language and reading impairments caused by undetected hearing loss. Unfortunately, these conditions are not easily detected without an examination. Currently children are not screened until they enter school. For many, this is too late. KidSight will provide early screening of vision and hearing for preschool children.

The goals of the project are:
bulletObjectively screen sight and hearing in children between 6 months and 4 years of age.
bulletEducate the public about the risk of undetected vision and hearing loss in infants and young children throughout Iowa.
bulletIdentify ways to sustain vision and hearing screening programs of this type.

The project was made possible with financial support from the Iowa Lions, the Lions Club International Foundation, and the Wellmark Foundation of Iowa. Volunteer Lions  will work with the project coordinator and audiologist to organize and conduct the screening clinics throughout all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

In Marshalltown and the surrounding communities, screening programs are set up by AEA 6 with the assistance of Lions to screen preschools and day care facilities.  AEA 6 also performs hearing screening.

The University of Iowa will provide technical and educational expertise, coordinate the program, and train personnel to use new technology, tested first at the University, to accurately detect vision and hearing loss in infants and children utilizing trained volunteers.


Amblyopia is the most common vision problem in preschool children. It is a decrease in vision in one or both eyes and arises without structural damage to the eye or optic nerve. When amblyopia is undetected or left untreated, it results in permanent vision loss that may adversely affect a person throughout life. The incidence of amblyopia in the United States is estimated to be 3 to 5 % of the population. This means that as many as 7,800 Iowa children under the age of 4 years suffer from poor vision in one or both eyes. If amblyopia is detected and treated early in life, permanent visual loss can be prevented.

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In recent years, portable screening devices that can test preverbal children have been developed. One of the most advanced screening systems is the MTI Photoscreener™. The University of Iowa has been working with the MTI since its development. The MTI Photoscreener™, a modified Polaroid camera, captures two images of the eyes. Due to the optics of the camera, the photographs demonstrate whether a child has a misalignment of the eyes (strabismus), a cataract, or a need for glasses. Any of these conditions, left untreated, can result in amblyopia. The MTI Photoscreener™ is useful as a mass screening tool and can be effectively used by trained volunteers.


Children identified with a potential vision threatening problem will be referred to local professionals for evaluation and possible treatment. Families will be encouraged to seek further evaluation and treatment by local practitioners. If families or local practitioners prefer, the child may be seen at the University of Iowa.

Because loss of vision is not a condition that is physically seen, many parents are unaware that their child has a problem. KidSight hopes to be able to screen the children of Iowa to identify children with treatment needs before they develop significant vision loss or developmental delay. Screening will be a free service so that it may be offered to all children, regardless of their social or economic situation. Further, it hopes to educate the public about the need for early screening so that it may become as common as vaccination in preventing illness.

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Article from the 12/6/2001 Marshalltown Times-Republican 

Additional information is available at the University of Iowa Iowa KidSight website.