The hearing of 111 perinatal intensive care survivors of birthweights 1500 g or less was assessed at a mean age of 6 1/2 years (range 4--12). These 111 infants included 86% of the long-term survivors of this birthweight cared for in the newborn unit of University College Hospital, London, during the years 1966--72. All these infants were nursed in commercially available incubators for periods ranging from 2 to 80 days (mean 37) in which the mean noise threshold was 65 dB. Ten (9%) had sensory neural nearing losses, one (1%) infant had a congenital conductive hearing loss, and 21 (19%) infants had exudative otitis media with a mean loss of 25 dB. Apnoeic attacks in the neotal period were the most significant predictors of hearing loss in these infants (P less than 0.05) and an indirect serum filirubin level of at least 170 micromol/l (10 mg/100 ml) in the neonatal period had an additive effect (P less than 0.05). There was no evidence that ambient noise had affected the hearing of these very low birthweight infants.
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