APGAR and Hearing Loss

by | Oct 31, 2022 | News

Hearing issues tend to disproportionately affect older individuals. However, they can impact children. Some hearing impairments, such as those caused by ear infections, may be temporary. Meanwhile, others are present from birth. Perhaps your child’s healthcare provider mentioned an APGAR score, but what does it mean? How could it indicate risk factors for hearing loss down the road? This short guide reveals some important details that parents should know.

What Is an APGAR Score?

Shortly after birth, a baby’s health is evaluated through a standard set of observable characteristics. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital explains that this test looks at five key factors:

  • Appearance: skin color
  • Pulse: heart rate
  • Grimace: reflex response
  • Activity: muscle tone
  • Respiration: breathing rate and effort 

Medical providers perform this test to determine a newborn’s condition and check for potential issues requiring immediate treatment. Usually, this is done at one minute and five minutes after birth. Possible scores range between zero and 10. Most healthy babies do not score a 10, namely because their extremities may still need to warm up. However, they tend to score at least seven or higher.

Does the APGAR Score Correlate With Hearing Issues?

Lower scores for otherwise healthy newborns can result after Caesarean section births or high-risk pregnancies. That said, lower scores at a minute or more after birth can be problematic. Boys Town National Research Hospital details how this works: Hearing loss risks are greater for infants scoring between zero and four during the one-minute test. The same is true for babies scoring between zero and six during the five-minute test.

How Common Is Hearing Loss Among Children?

The National Institutes of Health reveals that nearly 3 out of every 1,000 children exhibit detectable hearing loss at birth. Around 25% of these cases have non-genetic causes. A low APGAR score is just one possible indicator of risk. Other factors that may be present before or at birth include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Ventilator use for five days or more
  • Prescription antibiotics that damage hearing, including aminoglycosides
  • Viral infections during pregnancy

Many of these factors are easy to link to hearing impairment outcomes. For example, certain viral infections such as rubella or toxoplasmosis can pass through the placenta to a child still developing in the womb. These viruses may directly damage delicate structures such as the cochlea itself or the hair cells lining the inner ear that help pass along sound signals. Ototoxic medications such as aminoglycosides may be prescribed for babies with serious medical complications. As for ventilators, their consistent and chronic noise can harm tiny inner ear structures that are still growing.

How Can I Explore Therapy Options for My Child?

Hearing impairments can significantly impact a child’s development. With proper diagnoses and a treatment plan, your children can experience improved quality of life and the best possible outcomes. You can start with an evaluation or by asking your pediatrician for a referral. 

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Email us at: appointments@hearcenter.org

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Also, for more information about Audiology, please visit our webpage: https://www.hearcenter.org/services/audiology/