An initial overestimation of sensorineural hearing loss in NICU infants after failure on neonatal hearing screening
Objective: Infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units have a higher incidence of significant congenital hearing loss. We classified audiologic diagnoses and follow-up in infants who had been admitted to our neonatal intensive care unit. Methods: We included all infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at Sophia Children's Hospital between 2004 and 2009 who had been referred for auditory brainstem response measurement after failing neonatal hearing screening with automated auditory brainstem response. We retrospectively analyzed the results of auditory brainstem response measurement. Results: Between 2004 and 2009 3316 infants admitted to our neonatal intensive care unit had neonatal hearing screening. 103 infants failed neonatal hearing screening: 46 girls and 57 boys. After first auditory brainstem response measurement we found 18% had normal hearing or a minimal hearing loss. The remainder had a type of hearing loss, distributed as follows: 15% conductive, 32% symmetric sensorineural, 14% asymmetric sensorineural, and 21% absent auditory brainstem responses. Repeated auditory brainstem response measurement showed a shift in hearing outcome. The main difference was an improvement from symmetric sensorineural hearing loss to normal hearing. However, in a small percentage of children, the hearing deteriorated. Conclusions: As many as 58% of infants in this high-risk population who failed the neonatal hearing screening were diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss or absent auditory brainstem responses. An initial overestimation of sensorineural hearing loss of about 10% was seen at first auditory brainstem response measurement. This may be partially explained by a conductive component that has resolved. Finally, in a small percentage of children the hearing deteriorated.