Newborn Hearing Test May Predict SIDS
Preliminary Research Suggests That Newborn Hearing Tests May Help Screen for SIDS Risk
WebMD News Archive
July 27, 2007 -- A preliminary study suggests that it might be possible to
screen newborns for SIDS risk with a hearing test.
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is the sudden death of an infant less
than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation.
It's the leading cause of death among U.S. infants aged 1-12 months, according
to the CDC.
The new SIDS study, published online in the journal Early Human
Development, comes from researchers including Daniel Rubens, MBBS, of
Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle.
They studied the newborn hearing test results of 31 Rhode Island babies who
later died of SIDS.
Those babies had worse hearing in their right ear -- at three different
frequencies -- than a comparison group of newborn babies who didn't die of
SIDS, according to the study.
Rubens' team doesn't know whether the babies' hearing had anything to do
with their SIDS risk.
For instance, the study doesn't show whether the babies were sleeping on
their backs, which reduces SIDS risk, or whether they had other SIDS risk
However, Rubens and colleagues note that inner ear damage that occurs around
the time of birth might increase SIDS risk. The researchers reason that the
inner ear is involved in maintaining infants' breathing during sleep and a
damaged inner ear might hinder that process.
If their theory proves correct, that would mean that newborn hearing tests
may help screen for SIDS risk.
More SIDS Research Ahead
"This discovery opens a whole new line of inquiry into SIDS
research," Rubens says in a news release.
"For the first time, it's now possible that with a simple, standard
hearing test babies could be identified as at risk for SIDS, allowing
preventative measures to be implemented in advance of a tragic event,"
The findings don't prove that hearing tests will identify babies at risk for
SIDS. So the researchers plan further studies to investigate what they describe
as a "potential association" between inner ear damage and breathing
"We must now fully explore all aspects of inner ear function and SIDS,
and analyze testing frequencies higher than those currently tested by newborn
hearing screen centers," Rubens says.