Implementation of a nation-wide automated auditory brainstem response hearing screening programme in neonatal intensive care units

H L M van Straaten, E T M Hille, J H Kok, P H Verkerk
Acta Paediatrica 2003, 92 (3): 332-8

AIM: As part of a future national neonatal hearing screening programme in The Netherlands, automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) hearing screening was implemented in seven neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The objective was to evaluate key outcomes of this programme: participation rate, first stage success rate, pass/referral rates, rescreening compliance, diagnostic referral rates, age of first diagnostic evaluation and prevalence of congenital hearing loss (CHL).

METHODS: This prospective cohort study collected data on 2513 survivors. NICU graduates with one or more risk factors according to the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing were included in a two-stage AABR hearing screening programme. Conventional ABR was used to establish a diagnosis of CHL.

RESULTS: A total of 2513 newborns enrolled in the programme with a median gestational age of 31.6 (range 24-43) wk and a median birthweight of 1450 (range 510-4820) g. In 25 (1%) cases parents refused screening. Four out of 2513 newborns were initially lost; 2484 newborns have been tested initially. A final 98% participation rate (2465/2513) was obtained for the whole programme. After a median postmenstrual age at the first test of 33.7 (range 27-54) wk, a pass rate of 2284/2484 (92%) resulted at the first stage. The rescreening compliance after the first test was 92% (184/200). A referral rate for diagnostic ABR of 3.1% (77/2484) resulted. Of the 77 referrals 14 (18.2%) had normal screening thresholds, 15 (19.5%) had unilateral CHL and 48 (62.3%) had bilateral CHL. The prevalence of unilateral CHL was 0.6% (15/2484) and of bilateral CHL 1.9% (48/2484).

CONCLUSION: A financially supported two-stage AABR hearing screening programme can be successfully incorporated in NICU centres and detects a high prevalence of CHL in NICU graduates. Neonatal hearing screening should be part of standard clinical practice in all NICU infants.

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