Thursday, July 26, 2007

Predicting risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with hearing tests?

Sounds like a very strange connection, but the preliminary data is intriguing.

The current study is by Dr. Daniel D. Rubens of Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. His new theory:
It is known that the inner ear contains tiny hairs that are involved in both hearing and vestibular function. Rubens proposes that vestibular hair cells are important in transmitting information to the brain regarding carbon dioxide levels in the blood. He postulates that injury to these cells will disrupt respiratory control, playing a critical role in predisposing infants to SIDS.
From Science Daily:
This is the first time doctors might be able to identify newborns at risk for SIDS by a simple, affordable and routine hearing test administered shortly after birth. In the study, medical records and hearing tests of 31 babies who died from SIDS in Rhode Island were examined and compared to healthy babies. Rhode Island has a particularly robust database of newborn hearing test data.
The SIDS infants in Rubens' study showed a consistent four point lower score in their standard newborn hearing tests, across three different sound frequencies in the right ear, when compared to babies that didn't die from SIDS. Additionally, healthy infants typically test stronger in the right ear than the left. However, in each of the SIDS cases studied, the right ear tested lower than the left, reversing the test results of healthy babies.
If he's right, this will hopefully bring us many steps closer to preventing such a devastating, deadly disease.

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