Hearing test new approach to preventing sudden infant death syndrome
The simple hearing test given to newborns might help predict which babies are at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a new study suggests. The rate of SIDS has fallen more than 50 percent since 1983, according to the American SIDS Institute. But there are still about 2,500 sudden infant deaths per year in the United Statesand thousands more around the world.
In search of the cause of this mysterious occurrence, a team of researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle analyzed data on 31 infants who had died of SIDS. What did they discover? On a standard hearing test that is routinely administered soon after birth, each baby who succumbed to SIDS had scored lower in the right ear than healthy babies typically do.
The link? Tiny hair cells in the inner ear may help transmit information to the brain about the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. The researchers think that damage to those cells might disrupt control of the respiratory system, placing the babies at risk of sudden death.