Objective: To determine the incidence, characteristics, and evolution of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in infants with a congenital cytomegalovirus infection (cCMV).
Study design: In a prospective 10-year study, 14 021 unselected live-born infants were screened for cCMV by virus isolation in urine. Congenitally infected newborns were evaluated for SNHL during the first 5 years of life.
Results: A total of 74 of the 14 021 infants (0.53%) were congenitally infected; of these, 4 (5.4%) were symptomatic at birth. Hearing testing could be performed in 60 of the infants. SNHL was found in 21% of the asymptomatic and in 33% of symptomatic congenitally infected infants. Late-onset hearing loss was detected in 5%, progression in 11%, fluctuation in 16%, and improved hearing threshold in 18% of the infants with cCMV. SNHL was observed in 15% of infected infants born after a maternal primary infection, in 7% born after a maternal recurrent infection, and in 40% after a maternal infection of indeterminate timing.
Conclusions: In our study population, 0.53% of the infants had cCMV infection, 22% of whom developed SNHL. Long-term follow up and repeated audiologic testing is needed, because progression, fluctuation, improvement, and late-onset hearing loss are important features of cCMV infection. The search for a neonatal screening program to detect all cCMV is worthwhile.