Low birth weight increases risk of hearing loss

Children with a low birth weight are at increased risk of suffering from sensorineural hearing loss. A likely reason is that the ears may not be fully developed if the fetus grows slower than normal in the uterus.

A study conducted by Folkehelseinstituttet (the National Institute of Health) in Norway found a relationship between low birth weight and hearing loss. The risk of hearing loss is greatest in children weighing less than 1,500 grams (3.3 lbs.).

”The ears may not be fully developed due to slow growth in the uterus,” said Bo Engdahl, one of the scientists behind the study.

The risk of sensorineural hearing loss is reduced as the birth weight is increased. At birth weights above 3,500 grams (7.7 lbs.) the risk is minimal.

Fetus development essential

The growth of the fetus during pregnancy, not the duration of the pregnancy, determines the hearing development, according to Engdahl.

Thus, the study points towards monitoring potential causes of slow growth of the fetus. These include disease or illness in the mother, or the mother smoking, abusing drugs or suffering from infections.

Source: Folkehelseinstituttet, March 2008

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