British Journal of Nutrition

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British Journal of Nutrition (2010), 103:1296-1301 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © The Author 2009

Short Communication

Is undernutrition a risk factor for sensorineural hearing loss in early infancy?

Bolajoko O. Olusanyaa1 c1

a1 Maternal and Child Health Unit, Department of Community Health and Primary Care, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Article author query
olusanya bo [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


The present cross-sectional study set out to determine the nutritional status of infants aged 0–3 months with the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference (WHO-MGR) and examine the relationship between undernutrition and congenital or early-onset sensorineural hearing loss (CESHL) rarely reported for developing countries. The nutritional status of all infants attending community-based clinics for routine Bacille de Calmette-Guérin (BCG) immunisation from July 2005 to December 2006 was determined by weight-for-age, weight-for-length and BMI-for-age based on the WHO-MGR. Hearing loss status was determined by tympanometry, auditory brainstem response (ABR) and visual response audiometry after a two-stage screening with transient evoked otoacoustic emissions and automated ABR. The relationship between nutritional status and CESHL were explored after adjusting for potentially confounding maternal and infant characteristics using multivariable logistic regression analyses. Of the 3386 infants who completed the hearing evaluation protocol, seventy-one were confirmed with hearing loss (>30 dB hearing level). More than one-third (37·9 %) of all infants and over half (54·9 %) of those with CESHL were undernourished by at least one measure of growth. Stunting (35·3 %) was the most prevalent nutritional deficit in infants with CESHL. In the final logistic model, infants with any undernourished physical state were significantly likely to have CESHL (OR 1·67; 95 % CI 1·03, 2·77) and of a severe-to-profound degree (OR 3·92; 95 % CI 1·38, 11·17) compared with infants without any undernourishment. Prospective studies to establish the full spectrum of the relationship between undernutrition and CESHL, particularly in resource-poor countries, are therefore warranted.

(Received December 12 2008)

(Revised September 22 2009)

(Accepted October 26 2009)

(Online publication November 30 2009)

Key Words:Malnutrition; Child development; Early detection; Bacille de Calmette-Guérin; Community-based studies; Developing countries


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Bolajoko O. Olusanya, fax +234 1 2694041, email


Abbreviations: ABR, auditory brainstem response; BCG, Bacille de Calmette-Guérin; CESHL, congenital or early-onset sensorineural hearing loss; TEOAE, transient evoked otoacoustic emissions