Hearing Loss And Middle Ear Disease Linked To Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

September 1, 1997

Children with prenatal alcohol exposures, especially those with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), have a high incidence of sensorineural hearing loss (damage to the sensory nerve for hearing) and middle ear disease, according to scientists at the Bowman-Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. This is the conclusion of research completed.

The results of the research were presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation which is being held at the Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA on September 7-10, 1997. The meeting is the largest gathering for otolaryngologists, physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck.

The purpose of the study, by Ted Rheney, MD, Will F. McGuirt, Jr., MD, and Tamison Jewett, MD, was to determine the otologic manifestations of fetal alcohol syndrome, a disorder affecting one in 750 live births, 10,000 births being reported each year in the United States.

Some 105 children were evaluated for fetal alcohol syndrome at the North Carolina Baptist Hospital had their hearing tested by a range of audiometric tests as well as examined for otitis media (middle ear disease). Two study groups were observed: (1) 14 children were diagnosed with FAS; and (2) 48 with fetal alcohol exposure (FAE).

Mild to profound sensorineural hearing loss (average hearing loss of 43db) was found in 43 percent of the patients with FAS, 19 percent with FAE. Additionally, 71 percent of the FAS patients had chronic middle ear disease requiring treatment of surgery; the corresponding rate for FAE patients was 43 percent.

The researchers stated that in light of the high incidence of mental retardation and developmental speech delay found in children with FAS/FAE, this group should receive early audiometric and otologic evaluations.

Original Source of Article
FAS Community Resource Center