Last Updated: 2008-06-18 16:06:43 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In almost half of the neonates with confirmed hearing loss, an underlying factor can be identified, Belgian researchers report in the July issue of Pediatrics.

"Hearing screening in newborns is very important," lead investigator Dr. Frank Declau told Reuters Health. "Once performed, the hearing impaired children should get early intervention to maximize linguistic and communicative competence and literacy development."

As part of such an effort, Dr. Declau and colleagues at the University of Antwerp prospectively analyzed records of 170 neonates who were referred after failing community-based screening tests.

The children underwent a variety of further evaluations including clinical ear, nose, and throat examination and electrophysiological testing.

The researchers confirmed permanent hearing loss in 116 infants (68.2%). No risk factors could be identified in 55.8% of this group.

Twenty-nine of the 116 infants dropped out of the study, so additional diagnostic evaluations were conducted for 87 infants. A specific cause of the hearing loss was established for 48 (55.2%) of the remaining of these children.

Of the causes identified, continued Dr. Declau, "a genetic mechanism was present in 60.4% of the cases, peripartal problems in 20.8%, and congenital cytomegalovirus infection in 18.8%."

Summing up, he added, "It is very important that the causes of deafness are thoroughly investigated as they may guide the process of hearing revalidation. In our study, we proved that in nearly half of the cases a cause can be found."

Pediatrics 2008;121:1119-1126.

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