Background: A significant number of asymptomatic newborns infected with congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) will present with permanent childhood hearing impairment (PCHI) during early childhood.
Objectives: To investigate the role of congenital CMV infection in causing PCHI in the Netherlands, and assess the efficacy of two different hearing screening strategies and the developmental outcome following each strategy.
Study design: We included 192 children with PCHI at the age of 3-5 years, who were offered hearing screening in their first year of life. Dried blood spots from 171 children were available for CMV detection using real-time PCR. The results of eight previously tested samples were also available. Clinical baseline characteristics were collected from medical records and the Child Development Inventory was used to investigate the developmental outcome.
Results: The rate of congenital CMV among the 179 children was 8% (14/179) and 23% (9/39) among children with profound PCHI. Two of eight CMV-positive children with PCHI at the age of 3-5 years had passed the newborn hearing screening (NHS) test. Developmental outcome measures showed a significantly greater delay in language comprehension in children with both PCHI and congenital CMV infection (the largest in symptomatic children) than in the children with PCHI without congenital CMV infection.
Conclusions: Congenital CMV infection is important in the etiology of PCHI. Universal NHS is not a guarantee of normal hearing and development in childhood for children with congenital CMV infection. This is a problem which might be solved by universal congenital CMV screening.