Prenatal ultrasound exposure and association with postnatal hearing outcomes

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Objective: Prenatal ultrasound exams have become increasingly frequent. Although no serious adverse effects are known, the public health implications would be enormous should adverse effects on auditory development be shown. This study looks to establish a possible correlation between hearing loss and increased prenatal ultrasound exposure. Design: Retrospective cohort analysis. Setting: Tertiary academic referral center. Methods: A retrospective review of 100 children undergoing newborn hearing screening was conducted. Extensive data collection was performed, and this data was analyzed for a potential correlation between failure of newborn hearing screening and increased prenatal ultrasound exposure, as well as for a potential correlation of other variables with hearing loss. Main outcome measures: Postnatal hearing outcomes. Results: A higher number of both total and 3rd trimester ultrasound exams as well as a younger gestational age at birth were all found to be significantly associated with a higher likelihood of passing the newborn hearing screen (p<0.001 for each). No other factors were found to reach statistical significance. Conclusions: Our results show that there is no correlation between a higher level of prenatal ultrasound exposure and hearing loss. Indeed, infants who had more prenatal ultrasounds in the third trimester were more likely to pass their screening hearing exams. The finding that children receiving more prenatal ultrasounds have a higher likelihood of passing newborn hearing screens serves as an excellent reminder of the classic statistics rule that correlation does not imply causation. © 2013 Harbarger et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

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Harbarger, C. F., Weinberger, P. M., Borders, J. C., & Hughes, C. A. (2013). Prenatal ultrasound exposure and association with postnatal hearing outcomes. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, 42(JAN).

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