Researchers recommend that newborns delivered by caesarean section should not be given the otherwise routine hearing screening in the first few days after delivery. This will reduce the number of failed hearing tests.
Newborns delivered by caesarean section may be more likely to "fail" their first hearing test, even if their hearing is perfectly normal, a study suggests.
The problem arises if hearing screening tests are done within a baby's first two days of life, researchers say. At that point, newborns delivered by C-section have a higher failure rate than babies born by vaginal delivery.
So to avoid needless repeat tests - and anxiety for parents - the authors of the study recommend a delay in hearing tests for C-section babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants have their hearing tested before they are one month old. That's often done before a newborn leaves the hospital, though it varies by country and hospital.
The study looked at more than 1,600 infants born at one Israeli hospital, where all newborns have their hearing evaluated before going home.
Researchers found that when babies born by C-section had their hearing tested in their first two days of life, about 21% failed the test. That was compared with 7% of babies delivered vaginally -- a three-fold difference.
The gap narrowed when the researchers looked at babies tested after two days: 8% of C-section babies failed, versus1% of vaginally delivered babies.
And in the end, all of the babies referred for further hearing tests passed, meaning that the failures had all been false alarms.
Babies born by C-section typically stay in the hospital longer because their mothers needed a longer recovery. So delaying a first hearing test should not pose a practical problem.
Fluids in the middle ear
It is not clear from the study why C-section newborns tend to fare worse in very early hearing tests, but the authors found that it may be related to fluid in the middle ear. Normally, a baby's journey through the birth canal pushes those fluids out. A baby born by C-section bypasses all of that and the middle-ear fluids are retained for a couple days.
The researchers, who are based at Meyer Children's Hospital in Haifa, reported the findings in the journal Pediatrics.
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