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J Pediatr. 1983 Sep;103(3):447-53.

Follow-up of infants screened by auditory brainstem response in the neonatal intensive care unit.


Auditory brainstem response screening at 40 and 60 dB was conducted in 100 infants in the neonatal intensive care unit to determine initial failure rate and prevalence of abnormality on follow-up. Of our NICU population, 20% failed one or both of the screening levels: 9% failed at 60 dB in both ears, and 11% failed at 40 dB in one or both ears. On follow-up, half of the 60 dB failure group were found to have sensorineural or conductive impairment and represent the 2% to 4% prevalence of serious otologic-audiologic problems generally found in an NICU population. Subsequent improvement (reversal) of the retest ABR records of the remaining infants in the 60 dB failure group was thought to be related to neural changes in the brainstem associated with recovery from hypoxic episodes. A transient or reversible conductive deficit appeared to account for the majority of failures at 40 dB. We recommend the screening protocol be expanded to include threshold and latency measures in infants who fail the initial screening. The transient nature of many ABR abnormalities makes postdischarge ABR, otologic, audiologic, and neurologic examinations mandatory before any inferences are made about hearing loss or neurodevelopmental disorders.

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