Study shows benefit of pioneering U-M program for newborns at risk of hearing impairment

By testing the hearing of newborns whose health problems put them at special risk of hearing loss, doctors at the University of Michigan Health System are catching and addressing infant hearing problems far better and less expensively than the national norm, according to a new report on the pioneering program.

The successful early detection of immediate or delayed damage - found in 6.4 percent of the infants studied - allowed babies to be fitted with hearing aids before their development was affected. After 10 years of testing at the U-M involving more than 2,100 babies, the encouraging results are being published in the July issue of the American Journal of Otology.

"This program puts limited testing resources where they are most needed and can do the most good: among those babies most in danger of losing some or all of their hearing," says co-author Paul Kileny, director of Audiology and Electrophysiology for the U-M and professor in the Department of Otolaryngology. "Still, we cannot overlook the importance of training pediatricians and new parents to detect early signs of hearing loss in healthy babies."

The babies were all treated in the neonatal intensive care unit of the U-M's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Under the U-M's guidelines, all babies who are born with or develop one or more of 10 risk factors for hearing loss are given a sensitive hearing test within a few days of birth.

Those who fail - or who are at risk of delayed-onset problems but who pass the initial test -are tested again two to four weeks later. For those who pass, the U-M sends the parents a questionnaire about hearing-loss symptoms when their babies are seven to nine months old.

Risk factors for infant hearing loss include low birth weight; family history of childhood deafness; infection with a virus such as herpes; use of an antibiotic, respirator or heart-lung machine after birth; and abnormalities of the head, face or neck. The test, called auditory brainste

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan

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