Hearing Test May Identify Newborns at Risk for SIDS

A newborn hearing screening test may identify children at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to findings published in the July 3rd advance issue of Early Human Development. The disruption of the vestibular function of the inner ear may interfere with respiratory control during sleep, the authors explain, and newborn transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) hearing screening could identify inner ear abnormalities.

Dr. Daniel D. Rubens from Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center, Seattle, and associates compared the TEOAE hearing screen results of 31 infants who subsequently died of SIDS with those of 31 healthy, live matched controls.

The responses at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz tended to be higher on the right side than on the left for the controls, but tended to be higher on the left side in the SIDS infants.

"The direction of the asymmetry of TEOAE findings in our control group is consistent with prior reports," the investigators write. "The direction of the asymmetry among the SIDS infants was reversed and it further supports the potential application of newborn hearing tests for identifying at risk infants."

Infants with SIDS had significantly lower signal-to-noise ratios on the right than did control infants at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz, the report indicates.

"A significant decrease in right ear TEOAE signal-to-noise ratios across three frequencies in 31 infants who died of SIDS is a unique finding that suggests the possibility of a relationship between inner ear findings and SIDS," the authors conclude.

The researchers have planned several animal studies to investigate the potential association between inner ear vestibular damage and ventilatory control.

"The animal study findings will hopefully turn things around to substantiate the understanding of the mechanism of death," Dr. Rubens said. "I expect results from the animal study within 3-6 months."

"The need to investigate SIDS hearing at frequencies > 4000 Hz with otoacoustic emission is paramount at this point," Dr. Rubens said.

Reviewed by Ramaz Mitaishvili, MD

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