Time for routine screening of all newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus
A recent study published in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine should prompt a move toward routine screening of all newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus, a leading cause of congenital hearing loss. The test, which uses a small sample of saliva and costs about $3, was found to be 97% accurate in identifying babies infected with the virus. The screening test is important because only 10% of babies born infected with cytomegalovirus show any symptoms.
Once identified as infected, infants can be closely followed for evidence of hearing loss. The benefit of early detection of hearing loss in newborns is that if infants are fitted with hearing aids (some as early as three to six months of age) they are much more likely to develop normal speech and language skills which are acquired during critical periods of infancy and childhood. Children fitted early with hearing aids have been found to perform academically on par with their peers who do not have hearing loss.
Given that the test is accurate, inexpensive, can be done with no risk of injury to the child, and the results can decrease the impact of a leading cause of congenital hearing loss, all babies should be screened.