Hearing in Children With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Can J Clin Pharmacol Vol 14 (3) Fall 2007:e307-e312; November 1, 2007
Original Research
Raanan Cohen-Kerem, Benjamin Bar-Oz, Irena Nulman, Vicky A Papaioannou, Gideon Koren

Alcohol is the most prevalent human teratogen affected by early exposure of the fetus. Although not listed as a major part of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), different texts list hearing loss as a characteristic of the FASD, based on several small studies.

To characterize hearing in children with FASD, diagnosed in theMotherisk Program in Toronto.

Cross sectional cohort study.

Academic referral center.

Children 4-16 years of age that met criteria for FASD, with no other known risk factor for sensorineural hearing loss. A consecutive sample of 41 children (13 girls, mean age 8.9±3 years) was collected. Intervention: Physical examination, audiometry and tympanometry. Outcome measures: External and middle ear pathology on physical examination, pure tone average (PTA), speech reception threshold (SRT), discrimination and tympanometry. Results were compared to reference values in the normal population. Hearing loss equal or greater than 16dB hearing-level in each frequency tested was considered to be clinically significant.

A total of 5 (11.2%) of children had hearing loss of at least 16dB hearing–level, mostly unilateral. SRT was within the normal range in 40 (98%) of children with FASD and discrimination was normal in all children. None had auricular or external canal dysmorphology. 14.7% of the children had frequent episodes of acute otitis media.Middle ear effusion was detected in 8 ears (9.8%).

The prevalence of mild sensorineural hearing loss in children diagnosed with FASD (16dB hearing-level or greater) was not higher than expected in this age group. However, because children with FASD are academically and behaviorally challenged, early detection of hearing loss and early intervention is warranted.

KeyWords: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, hearing, children, audiology

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