Evidence for surviving outer hair cell function in congenitally deaf ears

Authors

  • Peter A. Rea MA, BM, BCH, FRCS (London), FRCS (ORL-HNS),

    1. Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Department of Otolaryngology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    3. The Royal National Throat, Nose, and Ear Hospital, London, UK
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    • Dr. Rea was the visiting Graham Fraser Fellow in Otology during 2002.

  • William P. R. Gibson MD, FRCS, FRACS

    Corresponding author
    1. Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Department of Otolaryngology, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    • William Gibson, The Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, Post Office Box 188, Gladesville, New South Wales 2111, Australia
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  • Supported by The Graham Fraser Memorial Trust, a registered charity based in the UK.

Abstract

Objective/Hypothesis: The hypotheses of the study were that congenital hearing impairment in infants can result from the isolated loss of inner hair cells of the cochlea and that this is shown by the presence of abnormal positive summating potentials on round window electrocochleography. The objectives were to establish the proportion of infants with hearing loss affected, the nature of the cochlear lesion, and its etiology. And to highlight the important implications for otoacoustic emissions testing and universal neonatal screening. Study Design: A prospectively conducted consecutive cohort study with supplemental review of notes was performed. Methods: Four hundred sixty-four children underwent round window electrocochleography and auditory brainstem response testing under general anesthesia to assess suspected hearing loss. The presence of abnormal positive potentials was recorded. Otoacoustic emissions data were collected separately and retrospectively. Results: Three hundred forty-two children had significant bilateral congenital hearing loss. All results were from hearing-impaired children. Abnormal positive potentials were recorded in 73 of 342 children (21%). Eighty-three percent of children with otoacoustic emissions also had abnormal positive potentials, but only 14% of children without otoacoustic emissions had abnormal positive potentials (P < .001). In the neonatal intensive care unit setting, 43% of infants were found to have abnormal positive potentials, whereas only 10% had abnormal positive potentials if not in the neonatal intensive care unit setting (P < .001). Abnormal positive potentials were present in 63% of infants born before 30 weeks gestation and in 14% of infants born at term (P < .001). Abnormal positive potentials were identified in 57% of infants with documented hypoxia and 11% of children with no episodes (P < .001). Otoacoustic emissions were present in 48% of infants from the neonatal intensive care unit, despite their hearing loss. Conclusion: Both otoacoustic emissions and abnormal positive potentials may originate from outer hair cell activity following inner hair cell loss. This may occur in more than 40% of hearing-impaired children in the neonatal intensive care unit setting. Chronic hypoxia is the most likely cause. Otoacoustic emissions testing may not be a suitable screening tool for such infants.

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