Nav: Home

U study: Law aiding infants at risk for hearing loss

January 24, 2017

A Utah law has led to increased early identification of infants with hearing loss due to a congenital infection, according to a new study by University of Utah and Utah Department of Health researchers.

The study, published today in Pediatrics, is the first to assess how implementation of a state-wide screening can pick up hearing loss in infants due to congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV). Utah, which has the nation's highest birth rate, was the first state to mandate CMV screening for infants who fail newborn hearing tests. The Utah law is proving a model for other states.

"Our study demonstrates that policy changes such as the one in Utah that required CMV testing after failed newborn hearing screening can improve the identification of infants with hearing loss, even those without congenital CMV," said Marissa Diener, lead author and associate professor at the University of Utah's Department of Family and Consumer Studies. "This is important because timely identification of hearing loss can enable earlier intervention, which is linked to better language outcomes for children."

The Utah legislation also provided funds for educational campaigns surrounding congenital CMV, which is important given its prevalence, Diener said.

"Although congenital Zika infection is less prevalent in the U. S. than CMV, many people have heard of the Zika virus but fewer are familiar with cytomegalovirus," Diener said.

Cytomegalovirus is the most common congenital infection, affecting about 1 in 150 children or 30,000 newborns in the U.S. each year. In Utah that equates to roughly one baby born per day.

An infant born with the infection often shows no symptoms or signs; most of those infants do not experience any long-term effects. But the virus can potentially damage the brain, eyes and inner ear. It is estimated that 6 percent to 30 percent of hearing loss in children may be due to congenital CMV, making it the leading non-genetic cause of hearing loss in the United States.

In 2013, Utah became the first state to enact a public health initiative requiring CMV education and testing. The Utah Department of Health was tasked with creating a program about birth defects associated with and ways to prevent congenital CMV. (For more information about the program, please visit health.utah.gov/cmv.)

"CMV is transmitted through body fluids. Washing your hands often, especially after wiping a young child's nose, mouth or tears or changing diapers is important, said Stephanie Browning McVicar, co-author and director of the Cytomegalovirus Public Health Initiative at the Utah Department of Health. "What is also essential, though, is not sharing food, drink or utensils, particularly with young children, while pregnant."

The bill also requires all infants who fail two hearing screens to be tested for CMV within three weeks of birth unless a parent declines the test.

By using that time frame, health providers are able to distinguish between congenital CMV and CMV acquired after birth, which is rarely associated with health problems. The screening parameters also are designed to identify infants who do not have any symptoms but are most at risk for hearing loss.

The researchers used Utah Department of Health and Vital Records data to assess whether 509 asymptomatic infants who failed hearing tests between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015 underwent CMV screening and the results of that screening.

They found that 62 percent of these infants were tested for CMV and three-quarters were screened within the three-week time frame. Fourteen of those infants were CMV positive and six had hearing loss. Of the infants who were tested more than 21 days after birth, seven were CMV positive and three had hearing loss.

The researchers conclude that because these infants had no signs of infection, it is "highly likely" they would not have been diagnosed later as having congenitally acquired CMV. Identification of CMV-positive infants increased opportunities to watch their health more closely and intervene, when needed, more quickly. They also found more infants received timely diagnostic hearing tests after the law took effect.

"This result has major implications for all children who fail their newborn hearing screening since speech and language outcomes depend upon early hearing loss diagnosis," said Albert Park, co-author and chief of the U's pediatric otolaryngology division. "CMV infected infants with hearing loss may benefit from antiviral therapy. This question will hopefully be addressed in an upcoming NIH funded clinical trial that our group will be conducting to compare hearing, speech and language outcomes in CMV infected infants." The researchers suggest, based on their analysis of the data, that screening compliance could be increased by focusing educational and outreach efforts on certain groups who were less likely to get their infants screened for congenital CMV: less educated mothers, babies not born in a hospital and infants who received hearing tests later than 14 days after birth.
-end-
Other co-authors of the study include Cathleen D. Zick, professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, and Jill Boettger, CMV data coordinator at the Utah Department of Health.

University of Utah

Related Hearing Loss Articles:

Victorian child hearing-loss databank to go global
A unique databank that profiles children with hearing loss will help researchers globally understand why some children adapt and thrive, while others struggle.
Hearing loss, dementia risk in population of Taiwan
A population-based study using data from the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan suggests hearing loss is associated with risk of dementia.
Mice reveal 38 new genes involved in hearing loss
Multiple new genes involved in hearing loss have been revealed in a large study of mouse mutants by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, King's College London, and colleagues.
New contributor to age-related hearing loss identified
Researchers have discovered a new potential contributor to age-related hearing loss, a finding that could help doctors identify people at risk and better treat the condition.
Exploring the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline
A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital adds to a growing body of evidence that hearing loss is associated with higher risk of cognitive decline.
More Hearing Loss News and Hearing Loss Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...