An evidence based protocol for managing neonatal middle ear effusions in babies who fail newborn hearing screening

Am J Otolaryngol. 2018 Sep-Oct;39(5):609-612. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2018.04.004. Epub 2018 Apr 12.


Objectives: To evaluate the prevalence of middle ear disease in infants referred for failed newborn hearing screening (NBHS) and to review patient outcomes after intervention in order to propose an evidence-based protocol for management of newborns with otitis media with effusion (OME) who fail NBHS.

Methods: 85 infants with suspected middle ear pathology were retrospectively reviewed after referral for failed NBHS. All subjects underwent a diagnostic microscopic exam with myringotomy with or without placement of a ventilation tube in the presence of a middle ear effusion and had intra-operative auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing or testing at a later date.

Results: At the initial office visit, a normal middle ear space bilaterally was documented in 5 babies (6%), 29/85 (34%) had an equivocal exam while 51/85 (60%) had at least a unilateral OME. Myringotomy with or without tube placement due to presence of an effusion was performed on 65/85 (76%) neonates. Normal hearing was established in 17/85 (20%) after intervention, avoiding the need for any further audiologic workup. Bilateral or unilateral sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) or mixed hearing loss was noted in 54/85 (64%) and these children were referred for amplification. Initially observation with follow up outpatient visits was initiated in 27/85 (32%) however, only 3/27 (11%) resolved with watchful waiting and 24/27 (89%) ultimately required at least unilateral tube placement due to OME and 14/24 (59%) were found to have at least a unilateral mixed or SNHL.

Conclusions: An effective initial management plan for children with suspected middle ear pathology and failed NBHS is diagnostic operative microscopy with placement of a ventilation tube in the presence of a MEE along with either intra-operative ABR or close follow-up ABR. This allows for the identification and treatment of babies with a conductive component due to OME, accurate diagnosing of an underlying SNHL component and for prompt aural rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Female
  • Hearing Tests*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Ear Ventilation
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / diagnosis*
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / epidemiology
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / surgery
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies