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Low prevalence of hearing impairment among very low birthweight infants as detected by universal neonatal hearing screening


Objectives: To (a) study the prevalence of hearing impairment in a cohort of very low birthweight (VLBW) infants and (b) evaluate the effectiveness of transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) as a first stage in-hospital hearing screening tool in this population.

Study design: The study group was a cohort of 346 VLBW infants born in 1998–2000 at The Sheba Medical Center. The prevalence of hearing impairment in the study group was compared with that of all other newborn infants participating in a universal newborn hearing screening programme during the same period. To evaluate the effectiveness of TEOAE, a control group of 1205 healthy newborns who had no known risk factors for hearing impairment was selected. The results and follow up of hearing screening for these infants were examined retrospectively.

Results: Only one VLBW infant (0.3%) was diagnosed with bilateral sensory-neural hearing loss. In addition, nine infants (2.7%) were diagnosed with conductive hearing loss. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia and low Apgar score were the most significant factors for predicting the occurrence of conductive hearing loss. The percentage of VLBW infants who successfully passed the in-hospital TEOAE screening was 87.2, compared with 92.2% in the full term control group. No false negative cases were detected on follow up.

Conclusions: The study shows a low incidence of sensory-neural hearing loss in a cohort of VLBW infants and a relatively high incidence of conductive hearing loss. TEOAE screening was found to be an effective first stage in-hospital hearing screening tool in this population.

  • ABR, auditory brainstem response
  • BPD, bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • BTT, brainstem transmission time
  • CHL, conductive hearing loss
  • CI, confidence interval
  • NICU, neonatal intensive care unit
  • OR, odds ratio
  • SNHL, sensory-neural hearing loss
  • TEOAE, transient evoked otoacoustic emissions
  • UNHS, universal newborn hearing screening
  • VLBW, very low birthweight
  • WBN, well baby nursery
  • hearing impairment
  • transient evoked otoacoustic emissions
  • very low birth weight
  • screening

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