Aim: This study compares rates and timing of newborn hearing screening outcomes, audiological assessment and hearing loss diagnosis between infants of different gestational age groups. Early identification and management of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), ideally by 3–6 months of age, facilitates speech and language optimisation. Literature stratifying hearing screening and diagnostic audiology assessment by gestational age groups is lacking.
Methods: Subjects were infants with recorded gestational ages receiving newborn hearing screening in Queensland between 2009 and 2011. Data were provided through the Queensland Healthy Hearing database. Infants were analysed in <34 weeks, 34–36+6 weeks, 37–38+6 weeks and ≥39 weeks gestational age groups.
Results: Infants (175 911) were eligible for analysis, 7.9% being preterm. Per 1000 infants analysed, bilateral SNHL of >40 dB occurred in 2.4 for <34, 1.4 for 34–36+6, 0.7 for 37–38+6 and 0.7 for ≥39 weeks gestation. Diagnoses attributable to newborn hearing screening direct referral were 93.1% for bilateral >40 dB SNHL and 88.2% for other hearing loss. Relative to term, preterm infants had a higher incidence of direct and targeted surveillance referrals, audiology assessment and hearing loss diagnosis. Preterm infants were screened later after birth.
Conclusions: Specific hearing screening and diagnosis characteristics differed between preterm infants <34 and 34–36+6 weeks gestation, and term infants. Consideration of unique gestational age strata characteristics supports care individualisation. Preterm infants represent a diagnostic challenge, with higher rates of bilateral >40 dB SNHL than term but correspondingly higher false positive results on screening, justifying vigilant monitoring. Focused research into specific risk factors in preterm infants is warranted.
- general paediatrics
- newborn hearing screening
- perinatal hearing loss
- preterm infants