OBJECTIVE : Early discharge of newborns (<24 hours after birth) from birthing centres is
an important barrier to successful newborn hearing screening (NHS) in developing
countries. This study evaluated the outcome of NHS within the first 48 hours using an
automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) device without the need for costly
disposables typically required, and transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE).
METHODS : NHS was performed on one hundred and fifty healthy newborns (300 ears)
with TEOAE and AABR techniques before discharge at a hospital. A three-stage
screening protocol was implemented consisting of an initial screen with TEOAE (GSI
AUDIOscreener+) and AABR (Beraphone MB 11). Infants were screened at several
time points as early as possible after birth. Infants were only re-screened if either
screening technique (TEOAE or AABR) initially yielded a refer outcome. The same
audiologist performed all TEOAE and AABR screenings.
RESULTS : Over the three-stage screen AABR had a significantly lower refer rate of
16.7% (24/144 subjects) compared to TEOAE (37.9%; 55/145 subjects). Screening
refer rate showed a progressive decrease with increasing age. For both TEOAE and
AABR, refer rate per ear screened 24 hours post birth was significantly lower than for
those screened before 24 hours. For infants screened before 12 hours post birth, the
AABR refer rate per ear (51.1%) was significantly lower than the TEOAE refer rate
(68.9%). Overall AABR refer rate per ear was similar for infants screened between 24 to
36 hours (20.2%) and 36 to 48 hours (18.9%) but significantly lower than for TEOAE
(40.7% and 41.9%, respectively). Lowest initial refer rates per ear (TEOAE 25.8%,
AABR 3.2%) were obtained after 48 hours post birth.
CONCLUSION : In light of the early post birth discharge typical in developing countries like
South Africa, in-hospital screening with AABR technology is significantly more effective
than TEOAEs. AABR screening with a device like the MB 11 is particularly appropriate
because disposable costs are negligible.