Sensorineural hearing loss and language development following neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of hearing loss in school-age children who have undergone neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment and to identify any effects of hearing loss on speech- and language development. DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal follow-up study within the framework of a structured post-ECMO follow-up program. SETTING: Outpatient clinic of a level III university hospital. RESULTS: Tone audiometry was performed by standardized protocol in 136 children aged 5 to 12 years. Hearing loss was considered clinically significant when >20dB. Hearing was normal in 75.7% of children. Five children (3.7%) had bilateral sensorineural or combined hearing loss; 3 of them received special audiological care (2.2% of total sample). Of the 24 children with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, 19 (79.2%) had normal hearing; and only 2 (8.3%) had mild SNHL, unilateral in one of them. Follow-up at 24 months of age had shown normal verbal and non-verbal developmental scores. Language development and intelligence median (range) scores at 5 years of age were also normal: receptive language development 104 (55-133); syntactical development 104 (68-132); and lexical development 101 (50-141) for 89 children; intelligence quotient was 104 (68-132) in 106 children. Scores did not differ between those with normal hearing, and those with mild hearing loss, or those with moderate to severe hearing loss (p=0.800, p=0.639, p=0.876, and p=0.886, for the respective developmental tests). CONCLUSIONS: We found normal language development and intelligence in a cohort of neonatal ECMO survivors. The prevalence of bilateral sensorineural hearing loss was in accordance with that of larger series in the United States – which exceeds the prevalence in the normal population.