Although vestibular deficits are more prevalent in hearing-impaired children and can affect their development on many levels, a pediatric vestibular assessment is still uncommon in clinical practice. Since early detection may allow for timely intervention, this pioneer project has implemented a basic vestibular screening test for each six-month-old hearing-impaired infant in Flanders, Belgium. This study aims to report the vestibular screening results over a period of three years and to define the most important risk factors for abnormal vestibular screening results.
Cervical Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials with bone-conduction were used as a vestibular screening tool in all reference centers affiliated to the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program in Flanders. From June 2018 until June 2021, 254 infants (mean age: 7.4 months, standard deviation: 2.4 months) with sensorineural hearing loss were included.
Overall, abnormal vestibular screening results were found in 13.8% (35 of 254) of the infants. The most important group at risk for abnormal vestibular screening results were infants with unilateral or bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss (20.8%, 32 of 154) (P < .001, odds ratio = 9.16). Moreover, abnormal vestibular screening results were more prevalent in infants with hearing loss caused by meningitis (66.7%, 2 of 3), syndromes (28.6%, 8 of 28), congenital cytomegalovirus infection (20.0%, 8 of 40), and cochleovestibular anomalies (19.2%, 5 of 26).
The vestibular screening results in infants with sensorineural hearing loss indicate the highest risk for vestibular deficits in severe to profound hearing loss, and certain underlying etiologies of hearing loss, such as meningitis, syndromes, congenital cytomegalovirus, and cochleovestibular anomalies.