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Could a failed newborn hearing screening test be a marker for subsequent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)? Despite the lowering of the SIDS rate with universal measures such as supine sleeping, decades of research have thus far failed to identify a warning sign for SIDS that might allow the implementation of targeted preventive measures.
Preliminary evidence suggests that infants who died of SIDS had significantly different transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) screening test findings on the left side compared with the right.1 Researchers at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center (Seattle, WA) compared the TEOAE testing results of 31 infants who died of SIDS with those of 31 healthy, live, matched controls. Asymmetry of hearing responses at 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 Hz was found in all of the study infants who later died of SIDS but in none of the control subjects.
This finding suggests a possible relationship between inner ear function and SIDS. The inner ear contains tiny hairs that are involved in both hearing and vestibular function. These hair cells facilitate transmission of blood carbon dioxide levels to the brain. Injury to these cells could disrupt respiratory control during sleep, predisposing the infant to SIDS.1 Additional research is under way to explore more fully the link between inner ear function and SIDS.
1. Rubens DD, Vohr BR, Tucker R, O'Neal CA, Chung W. Newborn oto-acoustic emission hearing screening tests. Preliminary evidence for a marker of susceptibility to SIDS [published online ahead of print July 3, 2007]. Early Hum Dev. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2007.06.001. [Context Link]
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