Factors associated with sensorineural hearing loss among survivors of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy

Brian J. Fligor, Marilyn W. Neault, Charlotte H. Mullen, Henry A. Feldman, Dwight T. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Objectives. To endeavor to explain why some graduates of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy develop sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) whereas others do not, to study the variability seen in the degree of SNHL, to attempt to explain why some graduates with SNHL experience progressive worsening whereas others do not, and to describe the time course of the onset of SNHL on the basis of identified risk factors. Design. A retrospective chart review with proportional-hazards regression analysis to identify specific risk factors for SNHL from a list of patient and treatment variables. Setting. Children's Hospital Boston, a pediatric tertiary-care facility and ECMO center. Patients. Neonatal ECMO graduates born in 1986-1994 who survived to discharge and underwent audiologic evaluations (n = 111) and a random sample of ECMO graduates who survived to discharge and did not undergo audiologic evaluations (n = 30). Outcome Measures. Audiologic data, including the presence or absence of SNHL, the severity of SNHL at the most recent evaluation, the stability or progressive worsening of hearing (with the first evaluation compared with the most recent evaluation), and the occurrence of delayed-onset SNHL. Results. Twenty-nine (26%) of 111 ECMO graduates who underwent audiologic testing had SNHL at the last evaluation. Of these 29 subjects with SNHL, 21 (72%) had progressive SNHL, of whom 14 (48%) had delayed-onset SNHL. The age of identification of SNHL ranged from 4 months to 8 years 11 months. Factors identified with proportional-hazards regression analyses as being associated significantly with the time to onset of SNHL were a primary diagnosis of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (hazard ratio: 2.60), length of ECMO therapy (hazard ratio: 7.18), and number of days children received aminoglycoside antibiotics (hazard ratio: 5.56). Kaplan-Meier "time-to-event" curves were constructed to illustrate the time course of onset of SNHL, as affected by each of the variables identified as significant risk factors. Conclusions. These findings illustrate the need for early, routine, audiologic evaluations throughout childhood for all ECMO graduates. Children at even greater risk for developing SNHL because of a history of congenital diaphragmatic hernia, prolonged ECMO therapy, and/or a lengthy course of aminoglycoside antibiotic therapy should be monitored even more closely throughout childhood, depending on the child's individual risk indicators, as suggested here. On the basis of these risk indicators, efforts can be made to minimize the risk of hearing loss while a child is being treated with ECMO. In addition, these risk indicators can assist with counseling families of ECMO graduates regarding the child's specific risk of developing SNHL and how it can be managed should it occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1519-1528
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Delayed onset
  • ECMO
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Hearing loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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