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Early Detection Saves Infants' Hearing

by Jane Meggitt

In many states, newborns receive testing for hearing loss before leaving the hospital. The majority of infants with hearing loss are born that way, but babies with certain illnesses are susceptible to hearing loss within the initial six months of life. A recent University of Utah study finds that 1 out of every 150 babies born in the United States suffers from hearing loss. As the University of Utah Health Care website states, ”Without screening or testing, hearing loss may not be noticed until the baby is more than one year old.” Early detection helps prevent certain hearing loss complications. These include poor speech development and emotional and/or social issues relating to lack of normal hearing ability.

Risk Factors

Premature infants and those suffering from breathing problems – requiring the use of breathing machines- are at higher risk of hearing loss. The same holds true for infants receiving certain medications, or born with specific virus. The latter is the most common reason for infant hearing loss.

Utah Cytomegalovirus Law

Since 2013, every baby born in the Beehive State is tested for cytomegalovirus (CMV) if early hearing issues surface. It was the first state in the nation to require this testing. The CMV infection passes from mother to fetus in utero, and can cause vision problems, intellectual and neurological disabilities along with hearing loss. In Utah, approximately one baby with CMV is born daily. The good news is that only one out of five infants born with CMV suffers serious effects.

However, many babies born with CMV are asymptomatic. Under the law, every baby failing two hearing tests must undergo CMV testing by the age of 3 weeks. Parents have the right to object to testing. As noted, CMV is not the only cause of hearing loss, but the University of Utah study shows that since its inception the law has led to better identification of hearing-impaired infants.

Knowing the Cause

There’s no current cure for CMV. That doesn’t mean knowing the cause but not having a cure isn’t worthwhile. When children are diagnosed later in life with hearing loss, they are often subject to various types of testing for cause determination. If the parents and doctor know the child has CMV, that’s a lot of testing avoided.

New Trials Planned

The University of Utah plans to conduct new clinical trials later this year to compare CMV-infected children with non-CMV youngsters and how they fare with speech and language development.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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