Objectives: To determine the prevalence of hearing loss in school-age children who have undergone neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment and to identify any effects of hearing loss on speech and language development.
Design: Prospective longitudinal follow-up study within the framework of a structured post-extracorporeal membrane oxygenation follow-up program.
Setting: Outpatient clinic of a level III university hospital.
Results: Tone audiometry was performed by standardized protocol in 136 children aged 5–12 yrs. Hearing loss was considered clinically significant when >20 dB. Hearing was normal in 75.7% of children. Five children (3.7%) had bilateral sensorineural or combined hearing loss; three of them received special audiological care (2.2% of total sample). Of the 24 children with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, 19 (79.2%) had normal hearing and only two (8.3%) had mild sensorineural hearing loss, unilateral in one of them. Follow-up at 24 months of age had shown normal verbal and nonverbal developmental scores. Language development and intelligence median (range) scores at 5 yrs of age were also normal: receptive language development 104 (55–133), syntactical development 104 (68–132), and lexical development 101 (50–141) for 89 children; intelligence quotient 104 (68–132) for 106 children. Scores did not differ among those with normal hearing, mild hearing loss, and moderate-to-severe hearing loss (p = 0.800, p = 0.639, p = 0.876, and p = 0.886, for the respective developmental tests).
Conclusions: We found normal language development and intelligence in a cohort of neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation survivors. The prevalence of bilateral sensorineural hearing loss was in accordance with that of a larger series in the United States—which exceeds the prevalence in the normal population.