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For Harris Health LBJ Hospital Tech, Listening to Newborns Becomes a Family Tradition

HOUSTON (Nov. 21, 2022) — All newborns in Texas must receive a state-required hearing exam soon after birth. This ensures that problems with hearing can be quickly detected and treated. At Harris Health System, the audiology team more than meets this requirement—usually completing exams within a day of birth. For audiology technician Aladrian Hawkins of Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, the job of screening newborns for their hearing has become a family tradition.

Stepping into her mom's same role, Hawkins knows the importance of her job. If done wrong or incomplete, the consequences for a newborn can be dire.
“Wow! I definitely have big shoes to fill," she says of her new job. “My mom is a people person, so I've become more of a people person myself. I'm excited about what I'm doing because it means so much for the lives of our newborns."
She credits her mother, Gayle Hawkins, who retired in September after 40 years at Harris Health, for her smooth transition. In her 12 years as an audiology technician, Gayle screened thousands of babies. Leaving a job she really loved was bittersweet, but knowing her daughter would continue her work made her feel better. 
“It's been a real eye opener," Aladrian says. “My mom's passion for making sure newborns can hear has definitely grown in me. I know I have to keep up the important work and make her proud." 
Usually within a day after birth, Aladrian goes to a mother's bedside and carefully ushers the newborn to a quiet area for screening. A well-swaddled—snugly wrapped with a blanket—sleeping baby is usually her best patient. Most screenings take 5-15 minutes to complete and involve testing each ear with a series of eight sound frequencies. 
However, getting babies to cooperate is still the biggest challenge. A crying baby or one who moves a lot will ruin a screening. Thankfully, Aladrian learned from one of the best. A soothing bedside manner and lots of patience are vital for a successful exam. In some cases, retesting a newborn might be necessary. If a newborn fails initial screenings, the audiology team conducts more testing to confirm hearing loss, the potential cause and a possible course of treatment. 
“We want to make sure that all our newborns leave the hospital with a passing test or a plan of treatment and care for those that don't," Aladrian adds. 
Hearing her daughter speak so passionately about her new job fills her mom with pride. 

“I'm so proud of her carrying on what I loved to do," Gayle explains. “I know she will do a good job because she cares about the babies and their families." 

Andrew Blevins, supervisor, Rehab Services, LBJ Hospital, who also oversees the newborn hearing program, believes the seamless transition of Gayle to Aladrian is great for the care of patients. 

“When Gayle announced her retirement, I was excited Aladrian expressed interest filling the position," he says. “The transition has been seamless and Aladrian continues the great work her mother performed in the past. Aladrian is just as compassionate about her job as we have seen from Gayle, and we are honored she continues to serve our patients well."  

The mother-daughter duo share more in common than just working for Harris Health. Each began their careers as volunteers before finding entry-level jobs that gave them opportunities for job development and advancement. Aladrian has been at Harris Health for eight years, while Gayle began her career at Jefferson Davis Hospital before moving to LBJ Hospital. The Hawkins family connection to Harris Health also includes stints by Aladrian's father and grandmother who also worked at the system.