The Newborn Hearing Feasibility Study

Teddy’s Wish has contributed £50,000 towards a vital study that will investigate if there is a link between the newborn hearing test and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The study is being headed by Professor Peter Fleming, who helped lay the foundations for the Back to Sleep campaign in the nineties, which led to an 80% reduction in SIDS.

Although SIDS remains the leading cause of post-neonatal infant mortality in western societies, and is the third highest cause of infant death overall, a cause for it is not known.

The Newborn Hearing Feasibility Study will explore whether the routine newborn hearing test, either alone or in combination with other risk factors, can be used immediately after birth to identify babies at increased risk of unexpected death later in infancy.

What could it prove?

While still a theory, the study could provide a link between inner ear development and the risk of SIDS.

By combining the results with already known risk factors, such as smoking, room temperature and an infant’s body position while sleeping, it might be possible to more precisely identify infants that are at greater risk at an earlier stage.

What does the study involve?

In 2008 a pilot study in Rhode Island USA initiated by Dr Daniel Rubens identified that 31 infants who had died of SIDS had markedly lowered hearing test results at birth.

This study was important since it offered the first clue of a potential defect in SIDS cases by a currently utilised screening tool, well before a fatal event.

Based on this work, Professor Fleming of Bristol University and his team will work in collaboration with Dr Rubens in Seattle, to undertake this large-scale two-year study.

We are delighted to be part-funding this project in partnership with The Lullaby Trust. To help us fund more essential studies like this to help eradicate all preventable baby and infant loss, please get involved or make a donation.

Professor Peter Fleming

Professor Fleming is Professor of Infant Health and Developmental Physiology at the University of Bristol.

He and Dr Pete Blair, senior research fellow at the University of Bristol, published a groundbreaking research paper in 1990 which identified three main risk factors for SIDS: parents who were lying their babies to sleep face down, covering them with too many blankets and smoking near the infant.

This laid the foundations for the Back to Sleep Campaign, which resulted in an 80% reduction in SIDS to their current levels. Professor Fleming remains dedicated to contributing to furthering our understanding the causes of infant loss.

Dr Daniel Rubens

Dr Daniel Rubens is Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesia, University of Washington; Seattle Children’s Hospital.