FEB 17, 2018 8:22 AM PST

Why is hearing loss common for infants after heart surgery?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

A first-of-its-kind study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) focused on hearing loss and its connection to neurodevelopment in children who survived heart surgery as infants. For a long time, medical professionals put all their time and energy in to helping infants survive surgery. Now that survival rates have increased, they can focus on long-term health outcomes.

The new prospective observational study from CHOP assessed 348 preschoolers (age four) who survived cardiac surgery as infants. This type of surgery is necessary for babies born with congenital heart defects. Researchers conducted a “comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluation” and found that the rate of hearing loss in young children who survived heart surgery as infants was 20 times higher than in the general population.

Just over twenty percent of the preschoolers in the study had hearing loss, which was also linked to lower scores on tests of language skills, cognition (IQ), executive function, and attention. Associated with hearing loss were risk factors like gestational age younger than 37 weeks, a confirmed genetic anomaly, and longer time spent in the hospital after the heart surgery.

What’s the connection between infant heart surgery and hearing loss later in childhood? Scientists still can’t say for sure. Possible answers are high-frequency noises in intensive care units and exposure to medications with side effects that damage hearing. However, more studies need to be done to learn more about these potential connections.

Based on what they do know, though, researchers advise that babies who undergo heart surgery should have their hearing evaluated between ages two and three years old. Identifying any hearing loss as early as possible maximizes a child’s likelihood of obtaining the right medical intervention, which could reduce the risk of further hearing loss and other neurodevelopmental complications.

“Ideally, all newborns should be screened for hearing loss by one month of age, with diagnosis by three months, and intervention services begun by age six months,” said co-author Carol Knightly, AuD, CCC-A.

Every year in the United States, 40,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects. Thanks to modern medicine, many of them will receive surgeries that successfully treat their specific problem. Experts estimate that more than 1.3 million Americans are currently living with a congenital heart defect.

The present study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Sources: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, American Heart Association

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 19, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 19, 2019
Genetic Link to Heart Disease is Stronger Than Thought
Previous work did not look at the impact of small changes in regulatory genes....
JUL 23, 2019
Cardiology
JUL 23, 2019
Shocking Numbers Of People Self-Prescribing Daily Aspirin
Up until recently, people who were concerned about the possibility of suffering a cardiac event were often advised to take low-dose aspirin daily. Because ...
AUG 08, 2019
Cardiology
AUG 08, 2019
No Increase In Risk For Home Births
Most babies in the United States are born in hospitals. That said, the number of mothers electing to give birth at home is on the rise. This trend lik...
AUG 08, 2019
Cardiology
AUG 08, 2019
The Best Way to Test Blood Pressure and Find Heart Disease
Heart disease causes hundreds of thousands of deaths annually -- can a new study on blood pressure tests guide doctors toward earlier diagnosis? About one ...
SEP 04, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 04, 2019
Are You Getting Enough Heart-Healthy Sleep?
Is there a sleep duration sweet spot to decrease your risk of heart attacks? According to researchers from the University of Colorado: Boulder, there is! T...
NOV 01, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 01, 2019
myTAIHEART Blood Test and Biopsy of Heart Transplant Recipients
Transplant rejection is a process where the immune system of the patient consider the donor's organ as foreign and rejects them. This is because t...
Loading Comments...