Auditory impairment in infants at risk for bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction

Semin Perinatol. 2011 Jun;35(3):162-70. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2011.02.011.


Classical and subtypes of kernicterus associated with bilirubin toxicity can be differentiated in part with physiological auditory measures that include auditory-evoked potentials and measures of cochlear integrity. The combination of these auditory measures suggests that bilirubin exposure results in auditory system damage initially at the level of the brainstem, progressing to the level of the VIII cranial nerve and then to greater neural centers. There is no evidence of neural damage at the level of the cochlea. Auditory neural damage from bilirubin toxicity ranges from neural timing deficits, including neural firing delays and dyssynchrony, to neural response reduction and even elimination of auditory neural responses. This condition is comprehensively described as auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. Independent measures of cochlear function and auditory neural function up to the level of the brainstem can effectively diagnose auditory neural damage resulting from bilirubin neurotoxicity. Intervention, including cochlear implants can be effective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cochlea / physiopathology*
  • Cochlear Implantation / standards
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Hearing Disorders / complications*
  • Hearing Disorders / physiopathology
  • Hearing Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / complications*
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / physiopathology
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / therapy
  • Infant, Newborn