Hearing Loss by Week of Gestation and Birth Weight in Very Preterm Neonates

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To gain insight into health and related costs associated with very preterm births, one needs accurate information about the prevalence of the disabling conditions, including neonatal hearing loss (NHL).

Study design

We assessed the prevalence of NHL by week of gestation and categories of birth weight in very preterm neonates. Results of the 2-stage Automated Auditory Brainstem Response nationwide Newborn Hearing Screening Program in Dutch Neonatal Intensive Care Units and diagnostic examinations were centrally registered between October 1998 and December 2012 and included in this study. NHL was defined as impaired when the neonate conventional Auditory Brainstem Response level exceeded 35 dB near Hearing Level at diagnostic examination. Birth weight was stratified into <750 g, 750-999 g, 1000-1249 g, 1250-1499 g, and ≥1500 g, and by small for gestational age (SGA; <10th percentile) vs appropriate for gestational age. Logistic regression analyses and recursive partitioning were performed.


In total, 18 564 very preterm neonates were eligible. The prevalence of NHL consistently increased with decreasing week of gestation (1.2%-7.5% from 31 to 24 weeks) and decreasing birth weight (1.4%-4.8% from ≥1500 g to <750 g, all P < .002). Most vulnerable to NHL were girls <28 weeks, boys <30 weeks, and SGA neonates. The SGA effect started at 27 weeks.


Gestational age and birth weight quantify the risk of NHL. This information can be used at the individual level for parent counseling and at the population level for medical decision making.

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