BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, infants born to women with hearing loss were significantly more likely to be premature and have low birth weight. This was the key finding in what is thought to be a first examination of the pregnancy outcomes among women with hearing loss in the U.S.
Around one percent of people in the U.S. who are 18 to 44 years old have hearing loss. And, as all hearing care professionals know, hearing loss, especially of earlier onset, has significant long term health effects, including speech-language deficits and its associated academic and economic impact. Further, hearing loss has been shown in the literature to reduce opportunities for individuals to benefit from healthcare communication with their medical providers.
Pregnancy and Hearing Loss
Researchers from Brandeis University in Boston examined the 2008-2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) to compare birth outcomes in women with and without hearing loss. Birth outcomes included preterm births and low birth weight. Of the nearly 18 million deliveries, about 10,500 were among women with hearing loss. Children born to women with hearing loss were significantly more likely to have preterm birth and low birth weight. In adjusted regression analyses controlling for demographic characteristics, women with hearing loss were significantly more likely than those without hearing loss to have preterm birth (OR=1.28, 95% CI=1.08, 1.52, p<0.001) and low birth weight (OR=1.43, 95% CI=1.09, 1.90, p<0.05).
According to Science Daily, Medicare and Medicaid were the most common payers for delivery hospitalizations among women with hearing loss, but private insurance was most common among women without hearing loss. Nearly one in seven women with hearing loss had their births paid for by Medicare, which was significantly higher than Medicare coverage for women without hearing loss (13.3% versus 0.6%). Women with hearing loss were almost two times more likely to have one or more coexisting health issues and were also more likely to be admitted to urban teaching hospitals.
Clinical interventions that directly involve mothers and babies to improve these conditions, while also reducing the overall cost of their care, are warranted. Given these findings, hearing care professionals have the opportunity to get involved with these groups by performing hearing screening and offering appropriate, cost-effective interventions when needed.
*featured image courtesy pregnancyandbaby