Protect your unborn baby against hearing loss

The cause of a newborn's hearing loss may be due to lack of caution on the part of the mother during pregnancy. Pregnant women should give up cigarettes and alcoholic beverages and avoid exposing the foetus to noise.

Even in the mother's uterus the hearing of the foetus is vulnerable to noise. If a pregnant woman spends time in excessive noise she risks that her baby will be born with noise-induced hearing loss. The hearing of the foetus is fully developed 20 weeks after conception and is unprotected.

Excessive noise during pregnancy may also lead to preterm delivery. According to Pediatrics, a US magazine, women exposed to 80 dB for an 8-hour shift are at increased risk of preterm delivery.

Cigarettes and alcohol affect hearing organs
According to a Swedish survey, malnutrition and toxins from cigarettes and alcohol reduce the cell formation in the foetus, affecting the hearing organs, which may remain undersized for life. The child also risks being born with fewer auditory sensory cells than normal, increasing the risk of hearing loss caused by noise or aging.

The Swedish researchers studied the relationship between hearing ability and height among adults in order to determine the risk of hearing loss in relation to foetus development. Earlier surveys have shown that cigarette smoke, alcohol intake and malnourishment during the mother's pregnancy may lead to shorter than average growth in height.

The study included 500 conscripts and 479 workers aged 20 to 64 years, who are exposed to noise in the workplace. Among the conscripts with hearing loss, the frequency of smaller than normal height was twice the frequency in the group of participants with normal hearing. Among the workers shorter than average, the frequency of hearing loss was three times the frequency of hearing loss found among their taller colleagues. This indicates that hearing loss, just like lower than average height, may be determined by conditions during pregnancy.

Sources: The Thrifty Phenotype Hypothesis and Hearing Problems, British Medical Journal, 2003, Hearing Loss Risk May Be Set Before Birth, Reuters, 21. Nov. 2003 and Pediatrics, Vol. 100, No. 4, October 1997.

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