Neonatal hearing loss in the indigent

Laryngoscope. 2002 Feb;112(2):281-6. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200202000-00015.


Objective: To compare the risk factor profile for neonatal hearing loss (HL), and the follow-up rate of those identified with HL in an indigent population with those in an insured population.

Study design: Retrospective review.

Methods: We studied 4526 neonates from the high-risk nursery or neonatal intensive care unit from two adjacent hospitals in Houston, Texas. Ben Taub General Hospital (BTGH) is a county public hospital that serves mainly the indigent. Texas Children's Hospital (TCH) is a private tertiary care center that serves patients with private insurance and Medicaid.

Results: Overall, 133 infants failed the screening test. Follow-up diagnostic testing identified 48 patients with definite HL. Although nearly twice as many patients at BTGH failed screening compared with TCH (88 vs. 45), four times as many patients at BTGH did not return for diagnostic testing (43 vs. 10). When a hearing aid was needed, there was a delay in getting one at BTGH (P <.05). There was a higher prevalence of dysmorphic facial features and central nervous system disease and a lower prevalence of long-term ventilatory support at BTGH (P <.05). There were no differences between BTGH and TCH in the prevalence of low birth weight, neonatal asphyxia, syndromic stigmata, neonatal infection, family history of HL, or neonatal transfusion (P >.1).

Conclusions: Significant differences in the risk factor profile for neonatal HL exist between the indigent and the general population. A worrisome problem exists with the timely intervention in hearing-impaired indigent neonates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Audiometry
  • Deafness / congenital*
  • Deafness / diagnosis
  • Deafness / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Medical Indigency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Probability
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Texas / epidemiology