Premature baby morbidity is the best it’s been worldwide, primarily due to the technological and medical advances put into practice in developed countries. While much work and assistance need to be paid to developing countries, babies born prematurely all across the world are at higher risk of birth-related hearing loss.
While not all newborn hearing loss is preventable, the more informed parents are about the vulnerabilities premature babies carry concerning hearing loss, the more likely they are to seek out all forms of assistance they can to prevent, detect, and treat hearing loss in their sons and daughters.
An exciting discovery about the culpability of certain antibiotics in the onset of hearing loss has come to light recently thanks to the work of a team of researchers at the Manchester University Centre for Genomic Medicine. This team has found that genetic vulnerabilities to certain antibiotics given as a routine course to protect premature babies from potential infections may result in hearing loss in the hospital environment.
To combat this problem, the Manchester team has developed a swab test that can be performed and reported on within 30 minutes of birth, so that appropriate and safe alternative antibiotics can be administered to the premature baby within the recommended 60-minute window upon delivery.
Another team of scientists at Stanford have been working on developing strains of antibiotics that possess a molecular structure too big to enter the ion channels of the inner ear, thereby making it impossible to damage the hearing of the premature baby.
Meanwhile, a concerted effort is being made to detect hearing loss in premature children earlier. The more time that passes before a diagnosis is made, the more challenging the road to treatment may be for a baby with hearing loss.
While most babies born in hospitals of developed nations receive hearing screening as a matter of routine before discharge, premature babies sometimes miss this opportunity because of the many more pressing and challenging needs that must be met before they’re considered healthy enough to go home.
A non-profit organization called Hearts for Hearing based in Oklahoma City has been working hard to ensure premature babies receive diagnostic testing as soon as possible. This kind of hearing screening is easiest done at birth since it does not require the baby to be awake to measure audiological functioning.
While not all hearing loss is preventable in premature babies, some treatments can be quite useful in helping a baby and their family function with reduced hearing successfully on a long-term basis. Nonprofits like Hearts For Hearing meet with parents early and often to get the appropriate training and treatments underway.
The first step in helping a parent adjust to hearing loss in their children is education. Educating a parent on the typical experience they may encounter with their children and the available options regarding technology and assistance significantly reduces the fear and increases the level of confidence and comfort parents feel in dealing with the situation.