A New Study Aims to Combat Hearing Loss in Children

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There is a relatively unknown virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) that affects approximately 30,000 U.S. babies each year. American infants are at a higher risk for complications from CMV than from Zika. Where Zika is transmitted by mosquitos, CMV can be passed from person to person by contact with bodily fluids. The virus is currently the leading non-genetic cause of hearing loss contributing to up to 30 percent of childhood cases.

The University of Utah Health is leading a study supported by The National Institutes of Health which will test a new approach to combating hearing loss in kids with a CMV infection. The study will evaluate if antiviral medication can prevent CMV-caused hearing loss in newborns from getting worse.

The research expands early CMV screening to 30 sites across the country and broadens the steps for intervention. Parents of newborns with hearing loss who are infected with CMV will be asked to enroll their child in a randomized, double blind study. Half of the participants will receive an antiviral medication and the other half placebo. Hearing will be tested during treatment and again at one and two years after treatment.

To date there is no treatment that has been rigorously tested in newborns, making CMV screening and treatment a point of contention in recent years. These clinical trials hope to meet that need. That being, said the antiviral treatment drug, called valaganciclovir, has been under scrutiny because it is largely untested and has been associated with side effects such as anemia and impaired fertility. So far, there has been a study that found the medication to be relatively safe with modest improvements in hearing among newborns with severe CMV. The current study will focus on CMV infected newborns with the less severe symptom of hearing loss only.

If you would like to discuss hearing loss treatment options for you or your child, please contact us at 888-333-9730 to set up an appointment with one of our pediatric hearing health providers.